When I lived in London, my roommates and I put a lot of effort into Christmas. We drew up a calendar: present-wrapping party on Monday, ice skating at Marble Arch on Tuesday, cookie baking on Wednesday. We cut snowflakes out of craft paper stolen from our workplaces, and we decorated our huge house. We hung Christmas lights in the common areas. We even bought some Christmas movies from the dodgy guy at the train station who literally sold DVDs out of his trench coat.
We did our best. But London is not a Christmas destination. December is windy and cold, and the sun sets so early, it’s an impossibly dark season. Additionally, the uniquely British issue of the stiff upper lip dampens the mood. Christmas is much too twee for them. Charles Dickens be damned, Londoners would rather just go about their business without all this attention to the blessings of the season.
So the next year, my roommate and I decided to seek out the Christmas spirit elsewhere. What follows are my definitive and non-negotiable Christmas ratings.
Whether you’re traveling for the holidays by plane or by armchair, check out these European traditions to really put you in the Christmas spirit:
• Switzerland — Strong contender based on its location in a snow globe. Loses points for menu options limited to cheese fondue and horse steak. One can only eat so much cheese fondue before the horse steak, and the ensuing existential crisis, becomes necessary. Christmas spirit rating: 5
• Belgium — What’s more Christmassy than sitting in the middle of the tastefully decorated Grand Place square, staring at a gigantic Christmas tree and eating a waffle covered in chocolate? Feels pretty damn Christmassy to me. Bonus points for dressing up the Manneken Pis statue like a little pissing Santa. Christmas spirit rating: 8
• Amsterdam — Dutch oliebollen doughnuts are extra festive when you’re stoned. Points deducted for overtly racist Zwarte Piet, Santa’s helper in blackface. Christmas spirit rating: 6
• Sweden. The Christmas game is strong with the Swedes. They decorate every single branch of every single tree in every single small town with tiny, tasteful white lights. They are the only country I’m aware of which celebrates with a giant straw Christmas goat. Even though I know he will inevitably be set on fire by some Scrooges, that Christmas goat fills my heart with holiday joy. Bonus points for the ubiquitous meatball. Christmas spirit rating: 9
• Germany — Sausages. Gluhwein. Tannenbaums. You can’t beat a German Christmas. Hamburg floats their big-ass Christmas tree out in the middle of the lake, for Chrissake. Christmas Spirit rating: 10
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