I went to Christmas markets in every European city I visited, but my favorites were in Berlin. Each night, after dinner, Naomi and I would wander through colorful stalls, sipping steaming Glühwein, stopping frequently to sample fried apple, lebkuchen, and currywurst. We would linger at stalls selling cuckoo clocks, painted nutcrackers, and hand-carved music boxes before pulling ourselves away. On our second night in the city, we found the Berliner Weihnachtszeit Market and sat under the light of the giant Ferris wheel, eating crepes with Nutella and watching the ice-skaters make their way around the rink. A group of older German men stood at a pavilion nearby, drinking mead out of clay jars and singing along to the barrel organ music. I could see their breath in the air as they toasted and clanked their mugs. In that moment, I felt like joining them. I wanted to toast the Christmas market itself, the feeling of camaraderie and joy and warmth that emanated from the men drinking and singing in the cold, from the couple ice-skating and holding hands, from the little boy and girl squealing as the Ferris wheel rotated in the air.
When I heard about the attack on the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin, I thought back to that experience, to the snow and the carols and the crowds of people from dozens of different countries, buying gifts under the lights. It was so real for me.
I count my blessings this Christmas to have seen a piece of the world and to be back home, safe and sound, and surrounded by the people I love.