Kitsch is a German word and the wonderful, warm, colourful Christmas markets of Germany demonstrate exactly what it means.
There were mock pine forests (trees nailed to the floor, Goslar); mock wooden houses (everywhere); mock stone ovens (plaster and fibreglass, Leipzig); and mock snow (fibreglass and glitter, Dortmund). The stalls sell traditional wooden toys, traditional sausages, traditional stollen, traditional cough sweets — you name it, if it’s ‘time honoured’ they’re selling it.
And yet, it doesn’t feel nasty, or tacky or cheap.
On our first night in Germany, we found ourselves in the Christmas market in Dortmund, surrounded by people slightly tipsy on gluehwein. Everyone was cold, but had hot booze to keep their hands warm. There was a genuine and general sense of well-being and togetherness, despite the fakery with which we were surrounded. And we didn’t give the absence of beer a second thought.
We’re no subscribers to the idea that we live in ‘binge Britain’, but the thought did cross our mind: could this ever work in the UK? Are we too cynical, too prone to drunken idiocy? It would be nice to think not…