Friday, 14 December 2012

Christkindl in China

Staying in Shanghai for Christmas posed a challenge: when nearly no one celebrates the holiday, how does one get that festive feeling?

Well, nothing says Christmas like a German market.

It might seem strange, but in years living abroad, from one side of the world to the other, the only thing consistent about Christmas is the presence of German markets. Wooden stalls decked with evergreen garlands, carved wooden toys, gluhwein to get the toes good and toasty and the feeling flowing... I'm not sure when the Germans became the harbingers of the holiday, but a big ol' danke is overdue.

So this past weekend, a few friends and I headed to the only appropriate spot in Shanghai to get merry: the Christkindlmarkt at the Paulaner Brauhaus. A boisterous beerhall the rest of the year, the Brauhaus' yard felt miles away from the center of the city when packed with a maze of stalls all filled with food and locally-made and international goods and gifts.

(Yes, the palm trees threw me off too).

The first thing to catch my eye (after grabbing a gluhwein, natch) was the brand-new brand Pinyin Press' clever cards. The cards feature seasonal sayings ("Shengdan laoren" = "Father Christmas"), phonetic prints (illustrating out the compound words that make up the Chinese for "computer" or "watermelon") and even the snappy alphabet series ("A is for Ayi", "B is for Baozi" - you can guess my favorite!), which also comes as totes.

There were also stalls from Paper Tigerselling their reversible wrapping papers that can be found year-round at treasure trove Madame Mao's Dowry, and Elke Martini, carrying more gorgeously illustrated greeting cards.

After wandering for a while, the smells of spices from the mulling wine and sizzling sugar from waffles was making my stomach grumble out a few carols of its own, so I grabbed some tangy sauerkraut with delicious fried German potato noodles, or badische schupfnudeln (which is fun to say after a few cups of the spiced stuff).

So here's to happy holidays near and far, and German markets to bridge the gaps between them.

Frohe Weihnachten to all, and to all a good night.

Paulaner Brauhaus
150 Fenyang Road
French Concession

Pinyin Press

Paper Tiger

Elke Martini

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