Let's be brutally honest: What has your carefully cultivated image as the Rugged Individualist gained you? You fancy yourself the mighty icebreaker among tugboats, shouldering your way through life with mechanical determination. Nothing stops your forward movement. Friends, family, a spouse, pets: All have been scraped off your hull like rotten barnacles in your relentless progress. Ahead of you is untrammeled horizon. Behind you, the past -- broken and useless and inexorably left behind.
But then December rolls around, and the past becomes everyone's present. The holidays are fueled by the past, by tradition, by memories shared with family, friends, loved ones. And you have none of those frills. Where can you go to bask in those warm feelings and glad tidings and happy holidays?
Why, to Hermann, of course.
The little slice of Germany transplanted to Missouri, Hermann provides the essence of Christmas cheer, even to the most solitary of souls. The Germans, after all, practically invented the concept of modern Christmas. The tree, St. Nicholas, the cookies: They all flow from Germany -- and your own taste of Germany is just an hour-and-a-half drive west of St. Louis.
And this is definitely the weekend to go, as the city of Hermann re-creates the German markets of yore with the Kristkindl Markt. Here you will lose yourself among the costumed artisans creating holiday crafts, reawaken your spirit with the ringing tones of the glockenspiel, and gorge your desolate soul on an array of Christmas cookies, steamed puddings, roasted chestnuts and traditional German foods. And as the sweet, spiced Glühwein courses through your veins, you will find yourself among new friends as the whole of Hermann becomes your surrogate family, sharing in this happy memory. 2005 comes soon enough, and with it you resume your lonely voyage. But for now, you are home.