Christmas in Leavenworth: It is the season to be jolly
By Devasmita Chakraverty
Over the course of my five years of stay in the US, I have developed a love-hate relationship with winters. Winters for me are cold, harsh, white, lifeless, lonely, and snowy. You cannot go anywhere without freezing blue and it takes you forever to get that thick layer of snow off your car. Forget hiking or camping, even driving to the nearest grocery story will require quite some effort of scraping off the sheen of ice from the windshield. Of course, it is a different story if you live in Florida, Texas, or Southern California.
I wonder why people eagerly wait for winters. You need to wear so many layers that your clothes often end up weighing more than you do. The three longest American holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) come one after the other during the winters. Flight prices go skyrocketing, and the choices for sunny places are so few. You freeze, your car freezes, and your social life freezes. Most people visit India during then, and you are stranded almost friendless in a cold country. As a kid, I romanticized the fantasy settings of many English novels like Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and Wuthering Heights where everything was cold, white, and gloomy, and the protagonists drank soup and read storybooks by the fireplace. I romanticized the idea of walking in the snow, the way they do in Bollywood movies, hurling snowballs at others and singing and dancing. After having brazened five cold winters, I no longer share those fantasies.
Winters are bleak, but winters are memorable too. I associate winters with hot chocolate, piping hot chicken soup, sitting by the fireplace reading books and drinking hot cider. I love working in coffee shops during winters, since there are not many places to go. I love the holiday season, gingersnap latte at Starbucks (something you get only during this time), decorated Christmas trees, cakes, carols, and cookies. I love watching the homes decorated with little lights. Winter is the time when I thank God that I do not live in permanently snowed in places like Canada, Chicago, or Iowa. Most importantly, I eagerly look forward to Santa Claus, flaunting my Santa cap every year. If nothing, I love sitting at home and watching movies like Before Sunrise, The Sound of Music, and When Harry Met Sally.
Celebrating Christmas every year would not be complete without a trip to Leavenworth when it snowed. Located about 120 miles (~2.25 hours) away from Seattle, one can make it as short as a day trip, or as long as they want to make it. This is a beautiful little theme town designed after a Bavarian styled village. Every shop, building, eating place, even a bank is modeled based on Bavarian architecture (Bavaria is a state in Germany).
There are two ways of driving to Leavenworth from Seattle. You can either take US 2 East (~120 miles), or the combination of Interstate 90 East and US 97 N (~135 miles). While the route along US 2 East is prettier (going around the Stevens Pass ski area), accessing it during winter could be a challenge, and chances are high that the roads are closed due to snow. Make sure the roads are open if you take that route. The Interstate 90 East takes a little longer, and goes around the Snoqualmie Pass, but is open and accessible more often. No matter which route you take, the drive itself is going to be as pretty as the destination. Since I have a habit of referencing Bollywood, the drive will remind you of the snowy roads from Jab We Met and Rockstar.
Once in Leavenworth, one can just walk around the town, soaking in the merrymaking. Leavenworth in summer is an entirely different beauty, and it is hard to tell if one season is better than the other. During winter, you can very well see the snowed mountains surrounding the town. The entire town is decorated with lights, as if getting ready for a wedding. Every shop is replete with Christmas decorations, with Santa Claus, elves, and Christmas trees. There is a particular store with an amazing collection of dolls. I cannot remember the name, but ask around; it should not be an issue figuring it out.
While in Leavenworth during Christmas, enjoy the street side carnivals. Enjoy a ride in the horse-drawn carriages. Enjoy a hearty meal of delicious crepes and ice creams. Enjoy the numerous stores that sell candy. Enjoy some wine tasting, unless you are like me and do not enjoy wine. Enjoy the Nutcracker Museum that has thousands of nutcrackers to show. In fact, if you can make a trip earlier, during Oktoberfest, you will witness the most celebrated event outside Munich in Germany.
If you live in and around Seattle, Leavenworth is a perfect daytrip or a weekend getaway. Since the holiday season is approaching, and Santa must be busy planning a trip soon, I would highly encourage you to make a trip to Leavenworth in and around Christmas.
On one of the most beautiful evenings in Leavenworth, I looked at the whiteness of everything in the night light. The snow from the last few days had not melted and it reflected a pristine shade of surreal white. Not for the first time that evening, I realized that winters are not that bad after all. I happily walked the lit up streets of Leavenworth, nestling a cup of piping hot coffee, exulting in the merrymaking of people around me. Life had never been happier.
Merry Christmas, and happy brrrrr winters.