Advent puts me in mind of my time in Germany. I’m not completely clear on why, other than that it puts me in mind of the Weihnachtsmarkt I visited when I was over in Darmstadt. Shortly after I got out of the Army, I had the opportunity to spend a year living in Germany – it’s actually where my oldest daughter was born. We lived in a little two bedroom apartment in Darmstadt, which is a town in the German state of Hesse, in the southern Rhine-Main area. It’s about 30 minutes south of Frankfurt. It is a gorgeous place – but then again, I was so enamored with being in Europe, I probably would have loved anywhere I was.
I do regret that I didn’t spend more time out in the town itself, shopping at local markets and stores, eating at local cafes and restaurants – it was easier to stick to the Army base, to shop at the commissary where people spoke English. What I did see, I loved. What I loved most particularly, the Christmas Market, or the Weihnachtsmarkt. Germany has Christmas Markets all over, sometimes called Christkindlmarkt. Advent is usually marked by the opening of these local Christmas markets. They’re similar to what we’d think of as a street fair around here. They’re typically in the town square, and there are open-air stalls with food, drinks (my favorite of which was gluhwein or mulled wine), seasonal items, and usually music and dancing.
Frankfurt has a rather famous market that I read about after already having moved back home to the states – I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to go to that one, as I lived so close to Frankfurt. But Darmstadt had a lovely one. It wasn’t too cold there, you could stop every few stalls and get some gluhwein which would warm you right through, and every one there was so friendly and happy. It was a lovely way to spend the Advent season.
I loved gluhwein, so much so that I had to try and recreate it for myself at home, and I’d like to share my recipe for it here. It is mulled wine that is served warm, and it is a life-changing experience the first time you try it. I made it for my husband one Christmas that we were snowed in from a blizzard and he had spent hours outside in the cold digging us out (quite literally). He was amazed, and told me that he’d marry me all over again just for this.
1 (750 ml) bottle good red wine
1 orange, sliced
2 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 cardamom pod
1 whole allspice berry
1 vanilla pod, halved
3 T. sugar
Heat this, but DO NOT BOIL, or the wine will turn bitter. Let it steep for 1 hour before serving – warm.
An optional addition would also be 1/2 cup of good brandy.
Drink it, and think of all good things Christmas.