One of the loveliest things about the holiday season is the explosion of Christmas markets that emerge across the world. Fragrant, colorful and kitschy, they warm up a chilly afternoon with ease and enjoyment. Some might even be so bold to suggest they're the perfect way to spend a cold December night: bundled up, sipping mulled wine and absorbing the sensory feast with friends and merrymakers.
A friend suggested I stop by Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland on a recent trip to London -- and what a wonderland it was! On a night well below the freezing point, I found myself amidst throngs of people dressed in their warmest scarves and mittens, wide-eyed and wine-buzzed, passing through this temporary glittering world.
From late November through early January, Winter Wonderland is open and free for the public's general perusal. It is a world filled with vendors ready to sell: a "Bavarian Village" boasts bratwurst and beer; the "Angel's Market" features arts, crafts, jewelry, and toys. Stalls from all over the world come to share fresh pastries, Turkish delight, and hot Hungarian goulash. Children dart between the crowds, searching for the nearest carnival ride or game booth; adults linger over spiked hot cocoa and ale on draft. It is an arena that dazzles not because of its luxury, but because of its novelty. And it is divine.
I'm a firm believer in appreciating the small moments. After all, those small moments comprise the makings of our lives -- and standing in the center of London with an international crowd weaving around me, laughing, singing, dancing, I felt it. You know the feeling: that intangible, indescribable warmth. People were happy. People felt alive. And they showed it!
Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland isn't an authentic Christmas market in the literal sense of the concept -- but it is authentic in the emotions it captures and the lives it brightens. The holidays, somehow, are able to draw out an untapped radiance that is stifled throughout the rest of the year. I'm not sure what magic Hyde Park sprinkled throughout its Winter Wonderland this year, but it's there and it's palpable and it's real. Overpriced mulled cider and churros aside, it is a corner of town worth passing through this holiday season. Between the Hyde Park gates and the bright lights of a distant ferris wheel lies unmistakable revelry and delight.
And really, what's the worst thing about splurging on hot beverages and sweet treats? With all due respect to our expanding waistlines, I consider the Winter Wonderland experience a worthwhile one. Cheers.