We were so lucky with our trip timing to be in Brussels right when their annual Christmas markets begin — they were just as magical as we imagined. While they weren’t as intensely put together as the ones we’d seen in Germany or Austria, they had all the usual hallmarks we looked for: plenty of delicious food being freshly cooked in front of you, arts and crafts and vendors selling locally made goods, as well as gluhwein and other alcoholic seasonal Christmas delights. The vibe is always fun and festive: local friends and colleagues gathering for a night out to enjoy the Christmas spirit and entertainment, and tourists such as ourselves mingling into all of it. Alcohol is always consumed, but responsibly. It’s one of those aspects that is severely and sadly missing in wannabe Christmas markets in the U.S., whether that is the small ones in San Francisco or the Holiday Market at Union Square or Bryant Park in New York. There are always large signs everywhere noting “alcohol may not be consumed beyond this point” as though you are corrupting all the people who are under age around you simply by having mulled wine behind a certain rope. It’s so silly and ridiculous.
We also did a day trip from Brussels this week to Bruges, a beautiful little medieval town, which also had started its Christmas markets, as well, and we got to enjoy the daytime vibes there, enjoying freshly made waffles, Turkish food, and gluhwein. We also chanced upon a local vendor who was selling handmade Christmas homes, and we purchased a little pink one to add to our Christmas house and village collection at home. I was so excited to have another one to add to our collection: each one documents a different country that we’ve traveled to during our European Thanksgiving trips, and it’s always a beautiful memory to be able to look at our book shelf of European houses and reminisce on our adventures there during the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. We don’t buy much (that isn’t edible, anyway) during our travels, but these houses are an exception to that. They make me so happy every time I see them in our apartment.