Europeans really know how to do Christmas. Because they don't have Thanksgiving, I feel like Christmas decorations and preparations are way more hardcore here than they are in the states. They don't have to focus their energy on two holidays — it's all in for the big one.
One of the most unique things that happen in various towns across Europe, especially in Germanic areas like Germany, Austria and northern Italy, are the Christmas markets. In Italy they are called mercatino di Natale, and in Germany, Christkindlmarkt. Regular markets are a common place to get groceries and household goods here, but the Christmas markets are a special festive thing — and only made better with glühwein.
There are a lot of amazing foods at the Christmas markets. They serve giant, salty, warm pretzels, plenty of variations of hot chocolate, bratwursts, roasted chestnuts, chocolate treats, marzipan sweets (if you like marzipan — ew) and I even had a funnel cake with Nutella (and you all know how much I love Nutella). But item to go for — and have many, many mugs of while making sure someone else is driving — is the mulled wine. We went to the markets in Verona and Bolzano in Italy and had our share.
In Italian, it's called vino brulé, and in German, glühwein. But it's warm wine, sometimes spiked with extra awesomeness, and it definitely loosens up your wallet so you can buy other non-food items at the market.
Because there are plenty of other things to buy! Elaborate ornaments, nativity sets and figurines, knitted wool hats and mittens, cuckoo clocks — many beautiful, mostly handcrafted items. And if you can find a time or a spot that's not too crowded, the markets are just a wonderful place to be, all beautifully decorated with lights and real fir trees and wonderful smells. If you're in Europe around Christmastime and are near a place that has a Christmas market — they're all over! — I highly recommend making a trip, warming yourself up with some glühwein, and soaking in the Christmas spirit(s).