What could be more romantic for the holidays than kissing under the mistletoe in Strasbourg?

The idyllic, fairy tale charm… the culinary delights… the enchanting Christmas Market. There’s no need to be home for the holidays since Strasbourg is the perfect cuddle spot!

The romantic Alsatian town is home to Europe’s oldest Christmas Market, tracing its origins back to 1570 and the time of Shakespeare, Moliere and Louis XIV. While eleven other markets have long since arrived to the sprawling Strasbourg holiday scene, the original remains the main event. Centrally located near the Strasbourg Cathedral, the marketplace is illuminated with thousands of lights and whimsical decorations. Foodies and wine lovers might wish to wander towards the Place d’Austerlitz for epicurean delights. In Place Kléber, the market keeps alive the spirited tradition of donating to charity and the less fortunate. Gifts are left under the tree and visitors are invited to speak with on-site charities to learn more of their works. Throughout the streets, you can be charmed by the beautiful melodies and holiday songs sung by orchestras, choir groups and gospel singers.

Fragrant aromas of pretzels, roasted chestnuts and vin chaud (hot mulled wine) will excite your festive spirit as you wander through 300 or more chalets of seasonal goodies for everyone on your naughty and nice lists. A colourful light show flickers near the 100 foot Christmas tree that was hauled in from the nearby Vosges Mountains and to be the centrepiece for the market. Nativity plays and an ice skating rink are part of the celebrations, as are the stuffed white storks you can find in seemingly every booth. Storks are a city mascot and an Alsatian symbol for good luck. This is France, of course, so food plays a pleasurable part in the festivities as well. Gingerbread, dried fruit, citrus fruits, goose, foie gras, bièrre de Noël (Christmas beer) and biscuits are readily available.

Also integral to the first Christmas Market in Europe – celebrating its unique history, of course! Along with being the oldest, it is said that the tradition of decorating Christmas trees with glass ornaments began here at the Chriskindelsmarik. In 1539, the world’s first documented Christmas tree was used inside the staggering Strasbourg Cathedral, symbolising the tree of life in the story of Adam and Eve. Apples and wafers were attached, in association with the forbidden fruit and the Eucharist. Beginning in the 1500s, parishioners started placing fir trees in their homes, initially hanging them from the ceiling. But after a drought hit the Alsace region in 1858, a new tradition of glass ornaments was born.

Merry Christmas, or as they say in France -- Joyeux Noël!

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