Recently there was a very black day; a Black Friday, to be precise. The shocking images coming from America of people who (for the sake of giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume are fairly sane otherwise) put aside every shred of human dignity to fight over an object they don’t really need just because it’s on sale (and which was most likely marked up in price beforehand…). This, the very day after they spent time remembering everything they have to be thankful for. Such behaviour is inconceivable to me. What possesses people to stampede, trampling others for baubles and trinkets? The introvert in me rather asks why anyone would want to go shopping on the busiest day in the year… heck, I even avoid shopping on normal Saturdays because of the weekend crowds! That scourge of marketing tactics is making its way over to Europe as well, but what’s odd about the European version is that there is no “Thanksgiving Day” as it’s strictly an American holiday, so the Black Friday on the following day is completely artificial timing.
Personally, I much rather prefer staying home and enjoying a day of rest; it saves me money, time, stress and injury. If I do any special shopping on the day, it is done online. Besides, it’s around this time of the year that Christmas markets burst forth; nearly every town in Switzerland has its own market, some larger and more elaborate than others. This past weekend, we went to one of our favourite local Christmas markets in a town called Bülach. Vendors might be individuals, or groups such as youth groups, or mom-and-pop co-op businesses. We tend to buy specialty items, such as gourmet cheeses, smoked meats, spices, honeys direct from the beekeepers, and homemade spiced oils. Other items I like to look for are nice olive-wood spoons for the kitchen, or handcrafts that I don’t make myself (e.g. metal or glass crafts). There’s also an Iranian vendor; I always pick up a kilogram of Persian rice (it’s got a basmati/smoky flavour) and an assortment of dried fruits from him.
Besides food items, we look for Christmas gifts for each other; that goes something like this:
(Me to my husband): “That’s a nice ring…” (Try it on; it fits).
(My husband) “Go away.”
“I’ll just walk on to the next booth.”
“Don’t look.” (He buys said ring, or something else besides, then joins me at the next booth.)
Along the way, we head toward the whisky shop and the conversation gets reversed – once he’s picked out a possible whisky he’d like to add to his collection, he leaves the shop, and I buy it plus stocking stuffer samplers (Schätzli, if you’re reading this, forget you saw that last sentence…).
In two weeks our own town will be having its market; it’s a time to get out, meet up with friends and neighbours, chat until it’s time to warm up with a glass of Glühwein (hot spiced wine) or hot chocolate, and find our favourite items, stocking up until the next year’s market days. The walk home is crispy cold, topped off with a hot tea and a cat on the lap; life doesn’t get much better than that.
When you go to Christmas markets, or street markets at any time of the year, what do you look for? What do you end up buying? Does your town have a Christmas market? What makes it special for you? I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments below!