Living in Europe has many perks. One of the best happens in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The pure magic of Christmas markets begin to blossom at the end of November. Decorations begin going up as streets are lined with twinkly lights. Tall pine trees are strategically placed in village squares. Stages are built for church choirs and children's classes to sing a multitude of joy each night throughout the Advent season.

As the markets open for business, the sights, smells, and sounds ring clear from street the street. Glüwein, the world-renowned beverage of choice, is being mulled together with warm red wine, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, orange slices, vanilla pods, and a dash of sugar. The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, savory sausages, and sweet crepes also fill the air.

Orchestrated bands are known to ribbon themselves throughout the crowds playing folklore sounds and handing out candy to kids.

The littles enjoy kinderpunsch (a non-alcoholic version of glüwein) while riding trains, carousels, playing games, and sometimes petting animals from a live nativity scene.

The artisanal crafts sold down the streets of Christmas markets also hold timeless value to the moment. They are local and handmade. Soaps, ornaments, figurines, decorations, oils, spices, candles, purses, and many winter accessories such as scarfs and gloves. Last year, I purchased a wonderfully woven hat to keep me toasty while walking the boys to school during the frigid, German winter.

Even outside of Germany are some spectacular Christmas markets. Our family favorite was Strasbourg and Colmar, France. Around every corner, I expected to see Belle whisking through with her basket wishing everyone in the town a good morning...and of course, the Beast not far behind. It's that magical.

I mean, where else can you view life-size Christmas bears strapped to the side of a building for decoration? Don't you want to grab one and take it home? I did! The French bakery below made it feel all the more like a real life fairytale.

Want to feel the magic of Christmas markets again? Yeah, me too. I'm utterly gutted they closed down this season. I know why, but it still stings. As someone who lives thousands of miles from home and will not see family for Christmas, I need these magical, spontaneous moments in my life.

They were a wonderful distraction from the homesickness that crept in around the holidays. Not only to distract from my own empty emotions, but to also create whimsical memories for my sons' childhood memory bank.

This is the main street in our village. Sigh. An overall blah empty feeling.

As much as I wish we were creating new memories dashing about the European Christmas markets, I've had fun reminiscing with you. There is so much joy in this season, even if we aren't able to continue on with certain traditions.

The thrill of hope remains!

A new year is on the horizon. Enjoy this time with family and those around you. Make a new tradition. Get creative with what you have on hand. And if you have kids under roof, I promise they don't care about the fluff. All they want is a cuddle from you.

Turn off the TV. Put your phone down. Curl up with a blanket and something warm to drink, and watch the twinkly lights on your tree. Get lost in the mesmerizing moment for awhile.

It really is a magical season and monumental way to end 2020. I pray you all have a restful and memorable Christmas.

All too soon, it will be gone again. Only to be replaced with New Year's resolutions, planning, and goal-setting. This wonder will be replaced with the hustle and bustle of reality. For now...soak up those last moments of the year.

If you never grabbed the Advent Calendar, click to savor the last few days of inspiration. Consider it my gift to you!

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