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Do you remember your first Christmas in Basel?

What stands out the most? Strolling through the stalls of the Christmas Market for the first time? Hot raclette on a cold December night? The smell of spicy mulled wine, a favourite ornament that still hangs on your tree, your first taste of Swiss gingerbread, the white lights across the Rhein?

Whatever your most memorable part of the season, it’s all starting this weekend with the grand opening of Basler Weihnachtsmarkt 2013…

The Basel Christmas Market, the largest in Switzerland, runs from 28 November to 23 December, kicking off with the annual lighting ceremony at Münsterplatz. Governing President of Basel-Stadt Dr. Guy Morin will begin the ceremony, which will feature the Musik Akademie Basel and Theater Basel’s Extra-Chor. Enjoy live Christmas music while you warm up with free refreshments!

The Christmas Market extends over Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz with more than 100 stands and stalls—handmade crafts, ornaments, scarves, specialty soaps, toys, and more, along with Christmas treats from Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) to chocolate truffles to sausages and chäschüechli (cheese pie).

A few favourites of the Christmas season are the annual Stadtlauf on 30 November, a run through Basel’s festive streets past Christmas lights and decorated shop windows; the Basel Wish Book at Town Hall, where guests from all over the world can record their wishes and hopes for the coming year; and the Basel Theater Advent Calendar, when every night during advent, the theater’s foyer opens up for a literary or musical surprise.

Barfüsserplatz ChristmasOther events to look forward to are the Snow White ballet, Santa Clauses on Harleys, the Christmas Tattoo, a carol sing, a tower night climb at the Münster, and lots more. Also, don’t forget to stop by the Spielzeug Welten Museum for this year’s window display and a special Christmas exhibition—Christmas, Sweet and Crunchy, where you can try holiday cakes and cookies from all over the world.

With a perfect balance of tradition and innovation, there’s always a chance to revisit your best-loved memories or try something completely new, whether you’ve been in Basel for one season or twenty.

Stop by www.basel.com for more info and an online brochure.

Barfüsserplatz photo by basel.com

By Dr. John I. Snyder, Guest Author (University of Basel Alumnus)

We want holidays to be merry, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic cited some of the below as factors that tend to make the holidays not very happy:

  • Connecting the holidays with family problems or painful memories
  • Expecting that you should feel happy
  • Dealing with the loss of a loved one, or spending the holidays away from friends and family
  • Developing unrealistic expectations, or thinking about negatives that have occurred during the past year
  • Dealing with changes in the family, such as divorce or death

In addition to the above, and the normal anxiety of not meeting holiday expectations, the past few years are some of the toughest many feel they have experienced in a long time—unemployment, debt, bankruptcy, broken hearts, life-threatening illnesses, and seemingly no hope for the future.

Instead of holiday joy, maybe despair—a sense of hopelessness, no way out, the end of the line—is what we’re feeling. Our problems seem to have no solutions. They’re all too big, too complex, too out of control to fix, and it appears that indifference to each other’s needs is growing. What is overtaking so many of us is worry and hopelessness.

Are you there now? You’ve hoped and prayed the worst wouldn’t happen, only to stand by and watch as it does. Or perhaps you’ve hoped for a long time for something but still received no answer, and you wonder, Why won’t won’t it happen for me—it does seem to happen for everyone else? Our most diligent human efforts have produced nothing.

So this is Christmas. But what does that mean?

It means—Immanuel, God with us! The birth of Christ gives us hope—no matter what our circumstance. Regardless of how we may feel at any given moment, Jesus assures us: Do not worry! He himself promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

So we have a God who makes an exit where none existed before, a God who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), who opens not only a doorway out, but also a doorway in. That’s something we call an “exodus”—a way into the Promised Land—a real solution, a rescue, a better life.

The reality we find is that no one is immune to life’s trials and tribulations. We’ve faced tough times, been betrayed, had our trust broken, faced our losses, headed in one direction, but found ourselves going in an opposite and better one. If you’ve found yourself there, you’ll come to realize that your life is being directed by a loving and gracious Father. His plan is unchanging and his ultimate goal for us is the very best.

So instead of giving in to despair and discouragement, consider this promise from the Psalmist who had seen every trial and been delivered from the worst, “See that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

What to do while you wait? Consider different ways to serve others, commit to prayer, immerse yourself in new projects, learn a new skill, get together with friends who increase the positivity and joy in your life, do some writing therapy, laugh at some of the things you’re going through, and plan one fun thing to do each day.

And God will grow you in ways you don’t expect. In time, you will discover that God is far more faithful and generous than we deserve.

This Christmas, remember that whatever else claims a place in your life, hopelessness should not. As long as we have Christmas, we have every reason to hope, to enjoy, and to rejoice. Don’t give up; in Christ, the better and brighter day will come.

____________

About the author:

Dr. John I. Snyder is an international pastor, conference speaker, and author of the new book “Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame” from Abingdon Press. He is also the author of “Your 100 Day Prayer” from Thomas Nelson Publishers, a transformational 100-day guided prayer journey, and “Reincarnation vs. Resurrection” from Moody Press.

John has been featured on Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, Fox News, Faith Radio Network, Cru, American Family Radio Network, In the Market with Janet Parshall, The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh, Miracle Channel, Bill Martinez Live, and many more.

As an ordained Presbyterian pastor, John has served congregations in the United States and planted churches in California and Switzerland. He is currently pastor of Starnberg Fellowship, an international church in the Starnberg/Munich area. He is the advisor and lead author for theology and culture blog Theology Mix (theologymix.com), which hosts 80+ authors and podcasters, and visitors from 175 countries. He received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he studied with acclaimed professors Bo Reicke, Markus Barth, Martin Schmidt, and Jan Milic Lochman. He also has Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

You can find some of his articles in academic journals, online magazines, and newspapers including Theology Today, Theology Mix, Outreach Magazine, The Christian Post, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Dialog, Theologische Zeitschrift, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, The Washington Times, and others. John has also served on the adjunct faculty of New College Berkeley as well as the World Journalism Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @johnisnyder or connect with him on LinkedIn. Dr. Snyder and his family reside in Germany.

Take a deep breath, look around you, and you’ll know there’s only one time of year it could possibly be. It’s Christmas again! The excitement in the air, nights sparkling with all colours of lights, shop windows all decked out…Basel is dressed its best and ready to celebrate.

The Basler Weihnachtsmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in Switzerland, runs until 23 December with festive music, gifts, and delicious holiday refreshments. Kicking off with a spectacular opening ceremony at Münsterplatz, 22 November at 18:30, the Christmas lights will be lit by President Dr. Guy Morin to the musical backdrop of Knabenmusik Basel and the Basel Theater Extra-Chor. Free refreshments are provided, so you can warm up with hot tea and mulled wine as you walk the city streets soaking up the start of a brilliant season.

This year brings some exciting new things to look forward to as well—it will be the second year for Münsterplatz to host its own special Christmas Market, and starting 29 November, children can even make their own Christmas gifts for family and friends at the Robi-Spiel areas. More events to watch out for are the Basel City Run, We Will Rock You musical (by Queen and Ben Elton), numerous Christmas concerts, “The Emperor of China and the Christmas Story” presentation at the Basler Marionetten Theater, and lots more for all ages. 

And most of all, what would Christmas be without hope? Join people from all over the world in adding your Christmas wishes for this year and the next in the Basel Wish Book at Town Hall.

Click here for more details about Weihnachtsmarkt in Basel!

So now, with the season around us and the new year just ahead, it’s hard to believe it’s been another year already. For us at Basel Community, Christmas marks the one year anniversary of our site. It’s been an exciting year for Basel, for us, and we hope it has been for you too! Let us know how you’re doing—your favorite memories of Basel at Christmas, your Weihnachtsmarkt must-dos, what you feel and see as you go about the city this year…we always love hearing from you. From all of us at Basel Community, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

For more information and a complete list of everything you can expect this year at the Weihnachtsmarkt, visit http://www.basel.com/en/christmas-basel-–-winter-fairy-tale.

No one can forget a Christmas in Basel. From the brilliant Christmas market to the lights and treats of specialty boutiques and chocolate shops, the city itself becomes a sparkling ornament to adorn the year’s brightest season. It’s all your favorite holiday traditions, new and old, in one of Europe’s most picturesque Christmas destinations.

A Sparkling Christmas Market

The Basler Weihnachtsmarkt is the largest Christmas market in Switzerland, and the city boasts the longest illuminated Christmas street in Europe. This year the market runs from 24 November to 23 December at Barfüsserplatz (the city’s famous centre), Claraplatz in Kleinbasel, and for the first time at Münsterplatz in front of the historic cathedral. It’s a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and crisp holiday scents, offering something spectacular to look forward to every day of the week: a Robi-Spiel-Aktionen playground for children, around 170 stalls displaying the finest artisan wares and crafts, and of course holiday pick-me-ups like Glühwein (spiced mulled wine), Christmas cookies, and famous fondue.

A celebration both inside and out, day and night, rain or shine, just walk down any street in the city centre to find yet another hub of activity with its own unique stalls and atmosphere. The Münsterplatz this year will be home to a gorgeous Christmas tree decorated by Johann Wanner of Basel’s famous Johann Wanner Christmas House. It is the largest manufacturer of handmade Christmas decorations in the world, serving customers such as the Queen of England and the White House. Wanner keeps the Christmas cheer going year-round at his magical shop on Spalenberg.

Shopping

Christmas shopping? You won’t have to wonder what to buy for anyone on your list. Whether you’re looking for something specific or just need a little inspiration, there are stalls for everything you can imagine: handmade jewelry, luxury soaps, handcrafted toys, colorful scarves and sweaters, candles, glassware, and much, much more. You can even pick up your own tree to trim at home from the tree lot at Münsterplatz.

Christmas Treats

And then there’s the cuisine. All that you find at the Basler Weihnachtsmarkt is gourmet. Visitors look forward each year to sweet Magenbrot and gebrannte Mandeln (roasted almonds) from outstanding local bakeries like Jonasch. Then there are fresh hot waffles and crêpes with a variety of fillings like hazelnutty Nutella, or cozy options like Bailey’s Irish Cream or Cognac; bite-sized Danish popovers and chocolate-covered fruits; spicy frosted gingerbread unlike any other; and a unique Swiss specialty called Biber filled with marzipan. Many stands also offer all kinds of traditional Swiss Christmas cookies: chocolate Brünsli and cinnamony Zimtsterne, for starters. After tasting these, you’ll want to make them part of your holiday baking tradition every year.

The Weihnachtsmarkt is a fail-proof dinner option too: you can dine on sausages and fresh local bread, a chäschëchli (cheese quiche), traditional Swiss fondue, or Raclette, another seasonal favorite of potatoes smothered with melted cheese and topped with a special mix of seasonings. For a lighter snack, try fried Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancackes with applesauce) or a variety of soft pretzels.

Keeping Warm with Christmas Fun

If you get cold browsing the stalls at Barfüsserplatz, you can stop to warm your hands around a cup of Glühwein, and your hearts around an old-fashioned puppet show at the Basel Puppet Theatre. They have entertainment for children in the afternoons and evening performances for adults. And there’s plenty more to do in Basel this winter to keep warm while you soak up the season: a Basel City Run, Samichlaus Tag (Santa Claus Day), Santa Clauses on motorcycles, and guided tours through the city. Step inside the foyer of Basel Theatre for their 3D ‘advent calendar,’ where each evening from 1 to 23 December visitors can enjoy a poetic or musical surprise. Do you have a special Christmas wish? Write it in the Basel Wish Book at City Hall, open from the beginning of Advent to the 12th day of Christmas.

The city’s tourism website hosts a comprehensive page devoted to Christmas in Basel, with a special pop-up online brochure about the Weihnachtsmarkt and all its trimmings. The tourism center also offers a Christmas package with the hotel of your choice, breakfast, a gift certificate for the Johann Wanner Christmas House, a complimentary cup of Glühwein, and more.

Home for the Holidays

From the city’s official lighting at dusk on 24 November, to the last day of the market on the eve of Christmas eve and all throughout the 12 Days of Extraordinary Christmas, a holiday season in Basel will always hang above your memory like a favourite photo above the hearth. Whether you’re passing through, relocating, or celebrating yet another year in beautiful Switzerland, let Basel be your home for the holidays.