Despite trudging through icy wind and rain when I’m more accustomed to snow this time of year, my holiday spirit has arrived in Berlin. We arrived back to our IES building on December 2nd to find faux pine bushes and sprigs of pinecones and gold ribbons, ceramic reindeer, a wooden yuletide candle fixture and small clay houses with glowing interiors on every surface. I thought maybe the staff and faculty were just trying to invite holiday enthusiasm and a sense of community within the program, but I quickly learned that the rest of Berlin decks its halls in equal measure to our common room.
While the decorations of my hometown revolve around one church-adjacent Christmas tree, here every city square displays a spangled, bobbled, giant Christmas tree and many have their own Christmas markets too. Alexanderplatz’s market is hectic; every booth seems to glow a different series of colors and a rainbow of smells from soaps and potpourris to gingerbread and potatoes follows you between booths. Potsdamer Platz feels like a carnival, complete with music, rides, and a giant snowy hill for sledding. My favorite place to feel holiday cheer is the famous Christmas market in the Gendarmenmarkt, which feels romantic, traditional, nostalgic, and reminds me of my favorite aspects of both Berlin and my home. As you walk down the narrow pathways, vendors offer samples of their dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, sausage, aged cheese and hot mulled wine and cider. Garlands of holly and evergreen hang from statues and lampposts and holiday choirs and bands perform on a raised stage right in the thick of the chaos.
I’ve been to the market twice and both times, my favorite part has been the small building erected between a few stalls that houses the works of fine artisans and crafters. Not only do the artists display their work, but they have workshops set up beside their finished pieces so shoppers can stop to watch the process. One woman selling ornately carved ornaments displayed a big block of wood half formed into the shape of a bear. A man will beautifully glazed pottery sat throwing a new vase on a potter’s wheel. Meanwhile jewelry makers tinkered, metal-goods merchants hammered, and weavers operated giant looms.
I pass another favorite holiday sight on my way to the train every morning. In one easily-passed-over flowerbox on my five minute walk to my S Bahn stop, someone has erected a miniature vignette of a nativity scene. The small wooden cattle and oxen sit beside stuffed wooly sheep and small dolls in robes lean against a straw manger with plastic palm trees. Nothing reminds me of home as much as subtle, quiet nods to the holiday that this makeshift decoration represents.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Having grown up in rural Vermont, Alli Green now studies art history and studio art at Skidmore College. She stays active on campus by working as admissions ambassador, a tutor in Skidmore’s writing center, and looks forward to assistant costume designing the theater department’s main stage production in the spring of 2014. Her ambitions include pursuing a master’s degree in either art history, museum studies, or library sciences, exploring opportunities to work as a field archeologist, illustrating children’s books, and contributing to the making of movie magic as a costume designer or special effects makeup artist. In the meantime, she is content to get excited about books, movies, art, history, and learning everything she can both while she is a student and after.</span></p>