Christmas Markets in Germany (Part 1)
Every year the Christmas markets are welcomed with open arms, by people across all age groups. For many the sight of Christmas markets heralds the beginning of Christmas time. However, the concept of Christmas markets themselves are hardly a new discovery, in fact many can trace their roots and history back over hundreds of years. In this article we examine the concept itself a little more closely, while providing you with a few examples, whilst also giving you some historical information!
A Bit of History
- The concept of Christmas markets has existed in Germany since the 14th Century; however it had a very different look to the Christmas markets we know and love today. They were initially conceived as a place for basket weavers, toy makers and pastry chefs to have an opportunity to sell their products all in one location. As a result they were granted the authority to construct stalls on the marketplace.
- The Famous Christkindle market in Nuremburg has been in existence since the early 17th Century.
- While the Christkindle market in Munich was first alluded to in 1310.
- The Striezelmark in Dresden was first mentioned in 1439.
- Typically Christmas markets were constructed within or near places of historical importance for example near: Old churches, Cathedrals, Castles and market places or Town squares.
Famous Christmas market locations:
As every city has its own unique elements as well as a certain charm about it, this can understandably play an important part in your decision about which Christmas market to visit. The City of Lübeck for example is a UNESCO-world heritage city, and it offers its visitors a truly enchanting atmosphere. While the Cologne Christmas market, with its iconic Cathedral ensures that there are plenty of photo opportunities to capture. If you attend the Christmas market in Leipzig you will be treated to a unique blend of cultural as well as culinary influences. You can be certain that there is something to suit everyones tastes.
- Takes place between 28th Nov until 24th Dec.
- Shares a partnership with other Christmas markets across the world, in locations such as: Glasgow, Venice and Atlanta.
- One of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany, as well as being one of the largest.
- Offers approximately 300 Stalls, offering traditional handmade wooden Christmas decorations, arts & crafts, Toys and various food stalls.
- A Christmas tree with a height of 45 Meters.
- Takes place between 19th Nov until 30er Dec.
- The city is a UNESCO World heritage city, since 1987.
- Takes place between 21th Nov until 30th Dec.
- There has been a Christmas market held in Lübeck since 1648.
- Very traditional, and steeped in history and it tries to maintain these origins. One of the highlights is that the Christmas market is constructed with a backdrop of the old Town Hall, which itself was completed in 1308.
- The famous Striezelmarkt is one of the oldest documented Christmas markets particularly famous for Christmas stollen (fruit cake)!
- Approximately 580 years old!
- Offering over 200 Stalls.
- An 8m high Christmas pyramid, split over 4 levels.
- It attracts around 2.5million visitors over a four week period.
- Takes place from 23rd Nov till the 23rd Dec.
- One of the oldest Christmas markets in Europa, with a history dating back approximately 300 years. It was first mentioned in 1692; however its roots are reputedly much older.
- It welcomes more than 3.5million visitors each year.
- Takes place from 21st Nov till the 23rd Dec.
- In addition to the traditional Christmas market it has a very mixed environment ranging from the traditional Christmas market, through to the Christmas market held at the docks meaning that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
- As it is such a large city there are many Christmas markets scattered throughout the city.
- The Christmas market held on the Alexanderplatz has Potters, Blacksmiths and Glass blowers, all of which can be viewed carrying out their work.
- Christmas delicacies, Handicrafts, as well as many other gift ideas are offered for sale. However, the main highlight of the market is the biggest Christmas pyramid in Europe with more than 5.000 lights.
- Has existed since 1393, however some records indicate it may be as old as 941, as King Otto I “The Great” may have been the founder of this tradition.
- Often travels over to the UK, where it has been set up in UK cities such as: Manchester, London, Birmingham etc. and each time a signature “Mulled wine” mug is produced which can then be purchased as a souvenir.
- Runs from 23/11/2016 until 22/12/2016.
- “Brenten” – (Almond cookies), “Quetschenmännchen” - (little prune men), “Bethmännchen” – is a pastry made from marzipan with almond, powdered sugar, rosewater, flour and egg. These are typical Frankfurter baked goods, which themselves can trace their history back over centuries. They were originally baked in the town houses of Frankfurt.
- One of the biggest admirers of Frankfurter Christmas goodies was the writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and in fact he used to regularly receive a packet of Bethmännchen from his mother.
- Dates back to the 15th Century. Takes place from 22nd Nov to 23rd Dec.
- Very unique cultural as well as culinary offerings, all located within the historical old town.
- It has 250 Stalls making it one of the biggest as well as most beautiful Christmas markets.
- The Munich Christkindlmarket held on the Marienplatz was first mentioned in 1310.
- 160 Stalls and it is the most traditional of all the Christmas markets held in Munich.
- Christmas tree with approximately 2,500 lights.
- Held between the 25/11/2016 to 24/12/2016.
English Christmas markets in comparison
The Christmas markets which take place in England are sometimes very different to those that are found in Germany. Many of them have been heavily influenced by German traditions such as the Birmingham and Manchester Christmas markets. Christmas markets themselves were extremely popular and famous until the days of Oliver Cromwell who famously banned the celebration of Christmas. Understandably as a result Christmas markets died out. It wasn’t until the Victorian era when Christmas markets experienced a resurgence and as a result Christmas presents as well as traditional Christmas food were sold again, however these were not considered “Christmas markets” as we understand them today.
The Lincoln Christmas market was the first traditional Christmas market to be revived and will soon be celebrating its 30th year.
Traditional Christmas markets are held in Birmingham, Bournemouth, Leeds, London, Glasgow, Oxford and Manchester. The Christmas market held in Birmingham has the distinction for being the biggest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria. It offers over 150 Stalls and attracts more than 2.8million visitors over a 6 week time period.
Due to influences from both German and Austrian Christmas markets it has become commonplace to find products such as: “Lebkuchen, (Gingerbread) Zimtsterne, (cinnamon stars) Father Christmas made of chocolate, wooden sculptures and Spekulatius (Speculaas, a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit). However, these products tend to be far more expensive than those found in Germany or Austria!
With the results of Brexit, it will be interesting to see how and if the situation will change in regards to the Christmas markets. It poses such questions as: Will the products on sale become more expensive as a result of importation costs? Could it even mean that certain products will no longer be available? As they say “only time will tell”.
Many of the wooden huts and decorations which are built for the Christmas markets are transported and constructed via the “Just in time” logistics concept, which in itself requires that each and every component be delivered at a certain time and date, otherwise delays are likely to hinder smooth running of the Christmas market. At the end of the Christmas market everything has to be deconstructed, which poses a challenge given that most Christmas markets are constructed within city centres, which necessitates stopping and controlling traffic to enable the vehicles access to the sites or alternatively this can be conducted at a time when traffic is at its lowest point.
With the approach of Christmas time, it also provides the perfect excuse to visit different cities. In many cases some cities are even more beautiful during winter time! If you get any contracts or assignments for the Christmas markets, ensure you arrange your ferries in advance as Christmas time tends to be one of the busiest times of year for Freight traffic and you do not want to be disappointed.
Stay tuned for our second article about Christmas markets in which we will mention traditions, as well as different types of food and drink which are normally available at the Christmas markets.