What would Christmas in Germany be without its famous Christmas markets?
The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. The Dresden Christmas market, first held in 1434, is one of the oldest Christmas markets. It attracts between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year and has over 250 stalls. The Bautzen Christmas market was even older, first being mentioned in records in 1384.
In many towns in Germany Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or “Weihnachtsmarkt”. In southern Germany and Austria, it is sometimes called a “Christkindelsmarkt, (literally meaning “Christ child market”). Generally held in the town square and adjacent pedestrian zones, the market sells food, drink, and seasonal items from open-air stalls, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. On opening nights (and in some towns more often) onlookers welcome the “Christkind”, or boy Jesus, acted out by a local child.
The market at the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive one of Cologne’s Christmas markets due to the backdrop of the imposing Cathedral. You can find 160 attractively designed wooden pavilions. Here you can choose from numerous sweet delicacies, watch artisans at work and enjoy the “Original Christmas mulled wine” out of the festively decorated Christmas mugs.
The historic market square in Mainz is a blaze of lights. The air is scented with a Christmassy mixture of roast almonds, gingerbread, hot chestnuts and mulled wine. Large and small visitors gladly let themselves be enchanted by this pre-Christmas atmosphere. On a stroll through Mainz Christmas Fair, the stress and hectic pace of everyday life are quickly forgotten.
Against the imposing back-drop of the over thousand-year-old Cathedral of St. Martin, showmen and craftsmen offer Christmas specialties and original presents. People saunter leisurely past festively decorated stands, collecting many suggestions for fine Christmas presents in passing. Home-made Advent garlands and straw stars, Christmas tree decorations, wooden toys, carvings, ceramics, candles and much more are on offer.
Hungry for more?
Here is a list of Christmas Market Guides I found online, they are quiet nifty and easy to navigate:
Don’t forget though, a lot of smaller villages run their own little Christmas markets (one weekend long, usually in December). Those markets are much smaller, but very charming and you will find arts and crafts from your local kindergarten and other treasures you wouldn’t find on the big markets.
Either way you choose to go, large or just a trip to the local market. Be sure to try the local specialty foods and happy “Adventszeit”!
Image by Dar1930 from Pixabay