If you celebrate the Christmas holiday and are looking for a more traditional, non-commercial holiday experience, consider a Christmas spent in German speaking Europe. Every year toward the end of November, towns all over the region light up the crisp grey winter with Christmas markets known as Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt. Some of these markets have their origins dating as far back as the eleventh century and revolve around the Advent season, ending on Christmas Eve. In the spirit of traditional Christmas, guests can buy handmade gifts and ornaments, enjoy seasonal and regional treats like mulled wine, gingerbread, marzipan, springerele and other traditional Christmas cookies and sweets.
The primary focus during Christmas for the people of German speaking Europe is contemplation and time with family and friends. Unlike Christmas in the United States with mad dashes for sales and a focus on consumerism, Christmastime in Germany is still very traditional and romantic. Families bake stollen and platzchen during the Advent season and decorate with traditional wreathes, Christmas trees and Weihnachtspyramiden (Christmas Pyramids). Many German families still light their trees with candles, and many tables feature Advent wreathes, with a new candle lit each Sunday of the season. The main night for gift giving is on December 24th, with it being considered a national holiday. December 25th is a day reserved for quiet reflection and time with family, and religion and religious traditions still play a large part in the Christmas season. The weeks leading up to Christmas Day, however, is filled with fun, light, good food and unique handcrafted gifts.
In Germany, Christmas Markets are set up in cities and villages in every state, with some cities having multiple markets that each offer a unique experience. The Nuremberg Christmas Market is one of the country’s most famous, dating back to the seventeenth century and famous for its ginger bread and the Christkind. Every two years a young woman between the ages of 16 and 19 is chosen to represent the Christkind, a Christmas angel, and from the balcony of the church of Our Lady she recites her prologue to open the Christmas Market and welcome all visitors in good spirit.
In the Bavarian capital of Munich, there are more than 20 different Christmas Markets all offering unique experiences. The main market at Marienplatz in the town square has the advantage of the city’s striking Town Hall as its backdrop. Every year a giant Christmas tree is lighted and the Town Hall hosts a “Heavenly Workshop” where children between the ages of 6 and 12 are able to make decorations, bake cookies, and become Christmas angels themselves, all for free.
Considered to be one of the most attractive Christmas markets in Germany, the market in the maritime city of Bremen bursts with craftsmen dressed in Medieval garb and vendors selling fish delicacies and hot mulled wine along with all the local crafts one might buy. The Schlachte Magic Christmas Market features a new door opened on the maritime promenade that acts as a walk through Advent calendar.