A Love Letter to Strasbourg, France for Christmas

By Cacinda Maloney

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

The wind was whirling around as I stepped off the bus, cold air striking my cheeks causing me to take a deep breath. I buttoned up my jacket around my neck and tucked in my scarf. Even though it was freezing cold, it was a day I had looked forward to my whole adult life, as I had always dreamed of the traditional European Christmas markets. Being an American, I had heard rumors of such fascination that I jumped at the chance to visit a few of them while in France this Christmas season on the Viking River Cruise down the Rhine River. The anticipation of this moment had been built up so much in my mind, that suddenly it was playing tricks on me and I could hear the reading of my favorite Christmas poem:

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Strasbourg, France Cathedral

Strasbourg, France Cathedral

That magic that jumps from the pages when The Night Before Christmas is read out loud, THAT was the feeling I had and the words to this famous poem were all I could think of as I spied the canal and the reflections of the old German houses in the water. Somehow I could even picture that very poem being written by Clement Clark Moore in 1778 taking place right here in Strasbourg, as if I could feel in anticipation the enchantment that was about to unfold around the Christmas season. That anticipation that had been built up in my mind and yet somehow, it now was so hard to grasp, as if it was like déjà vu.

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

 

“For poems are like rainbows; they escape you quickly.”
—Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

 

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

I was on a group tour of the city and I followed along with the tour guide, which for me is quite an accomplishment, teetering way ahead of the group or way behind, so that I could get great photographs, yet I could hear her voice in my earpiece about the history of Strasbourg,

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

I kept thinking. “But what about the Christmas markets?

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

She continued and went thru the brutal history of Strasbourg, which made me pause for a moment to think about how the beauty of Christmas has made such a presence here, with every house and restaurant and building not just decorated for Christmas, but literally covered in oversized Christmas memorabilia. As if this town really needed Christmas to lift its spirits, to have something to believe in and that that tradition grew to this level of magic probably due to its tumultuous past.

Strasbourg, France life sized gingerbread man

Strasbourg, France life sized gingerbread man

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Thinking of the tragic history of this beautiful border town, I realize this is no ordinary city, nor ordinary people. They are of the resilient kind. The kind that no matter what is going on around them, they will survive; they just need the hope, faith and grace of the Catholic Church to persevere. Perched on the border between Germany and France, at one time in its citizen’s lives, they were French, then German, and then French once again. Many people had to fight against their own brother during World War II. Unfortunately due to its location on the border, the city was right dab in the middle of some horrible bombing during this time.

To sum it all up in one sentence, “darinnen liegt begrahben so maniger Soldat” from an old folk song of Strasbourg, which means, “many a solider lies buried here.” To think of the war and how many times this city has been under siege makes for a stark contrast to what I was seeing before me: a quaint decorated city of canals with a mesmerizing cathedral. It is a miracle that it even exists today. Yet I know it is because of its people and their faith in God, as he has made them strong and resilient.

Today, while strolling the city for the Christmas Markets that dot the town, I see the magic that is Christmas in the streets with its enchanting carousel, glühwein, hot orange chaud, hot chocolate with cream and snowball treats. It was in Strasbourg in 1570 that the very first and oldest Christmas market in Europe took place, called the “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Infant Jesus).

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France Snowballs

Strasbourg, France Snowballs

Strasbourg, France Snowballs

Strasbourg, France Snowballs

As I look around, it appears as if the city has been reborn again (like Christ), but with magic this time. Even the name Strasbourg is key to remembering the instability of its tumultuous past:

Argentoratum

Stratae burgus

Statisburgo

Stratburgo

Stratburg

Straszpurg

Straburg

Strasbourge

Straburg

Strasbourg or even Strausbourg

Strasbourg today may have a glorious past, yet the promise of a bright future exists and it does a fine job in representing the dualism of the French and the Germans influences it has undergone.

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

Strasbourg, France Christmas Markets

The one thing you will not miss while strolling the streets of Strasbourg will be its stunning gothic cathedral. It is a jaw-dropping piece of architecture. The immense beauty of the Strasbourg Cathedral is a mix of filigree stonework, lacy spires, and leering gargoyles. And during the winter season, you will find at the foot of its towering presence the cutest little Christmas market, which you do not want to miss. Strasbourg is the perfect city for a combination of strolling, snacking, shopping and then admiration of its gorgeous cathedral.

Strasbourg, France Cathedral

Strasbourg, France Cathedral

Here is a list of Christmas Markets in Strasbourg for you to wander thru.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises and my stop in Strasbourg was one of the stops on the Rhine Getaway Package.

For more journeys through France:

15 Photos To Make You Pack Your Bags for Southern France

I got the French Blues

Journey Through Champagne

Tiny Bubbles in the Countryside of France, La Champagne

Reims, France: Explore the Champagne Houses in Reims 

How to be a Queen for the Night in Paris, France

Remembering Normandy Beach

 

2017-07-10T17:19:59+00:00

15 Comments

  1. Marilyn Jones December 17, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I really enjoyed reading about your European holiday adventure!! And, as always, your photos are excellent!!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 17, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Ahh, thanks so much Marilyn! Strasbourg is fabulous!

  2. Katherine Belarmino | Travel the World December 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I would love to visit the Christmas markets. The pastries look so French but the architecture looks so German!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 18, 2014 at 11:37 am

      They are so amazing! I hope you get a chance to do it next year, put it on your bucket list!

  3. Karla December 18, 2014 at 6:25 am

    I have been following along with your adventures. I lived in Karlsruhe Germany for many years so I spent a lot of time in this beautiful city of Strasbourg. I’m glad you got to visit it at this magical time of year and share your experience with us. Thanks!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 18, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Oh, I loved it so much! I can’t wait to go back just regular season as well!

  4. Charles McCool December 19, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Wow, that gingerbread cookie!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 19, 2014 at 6:37 am

      I know, right? Crazy oversized Christmas everything is in Strasbourg. But somehow, it seems just perfect!

  5. Kerwin December 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Not yet visited this the city, but plan to visit a friend who lives there in 2015 hopefully.
    Thanks for the photos, it’s whetted my appetite even more.

  6. […] A Love Letter to Strausbourg France […]

  7. […] border between France and Germany, does an amazing job of blending the two cultures and brings out one of the best Christmas markets right at the foot of an overwhelming beautiful cathedral. Not only is it one of the best on the […]

  8. […] European Christmas Market tradition originated in Strasbourg, when “Christkindelsmärik” (market of the Infant Jesus) spread holiday cheer in 1570. The French and German culture of this […]

  9. Jane Jiayi November 19, 2016 at 7:26 am

    I really like it

Comments are closed.