German Christmas markets have gained in popularity in the UK over the past couple of decades, with shoppers traveling to the traditional chalets and wooden huts that sell authentic German produce. Many people have become so enamoured with these markets, that they are now even taking a trip to Germany to fully experience the magic of these markets.
The festive atmosphere that these markets create cannot be bettered, with all the senses stirred by the smell of cooked traditional German fare of baked apples, roasted chestnuts, frying German sausages and delicious mulled wine. Another reason these markets are becoming evermore popular is that shoppers are tiring of the over commercialised products typically pushed at Christmas, and seeking alternatives with a little provenance and style.
At a typical German Christmas market you’ll find such goods as wood carvings, cute and original toys, crib figurines, toys, marionettes, candles and even lambskin shoes to put underneath your Christmas tree. Germany is famed for its Christmas tree baubles; in fact the first baubles were made in the Erzgebirge around 400 years ago, so what better place to buy some than at an authentic market. And you’ll find a healthy competition between vendors to see who can sell the biggest and best hand blown and hand decorated designs.
You’ll always see candles at a German Christmas market; not only do they illuminate the dark winter months and give out warmth, they also help to create a wonderful atmosphere at Christmas. The candles at most markets are made from authentic beeswax, and you’ll often find the actual beekeepers who have collected the wax selling their own candles.
Music boxes are a huge hit at Christmas at these markets. Handcrafted with skill and patience, each one contains a delicate clockwork mechanism designed to play a Christmas tune. They really are something quite special, with each one having a different design on the front, displaying a variety of Christmas themes.
Smokers are also popular, first having been developed around 1850 in Heidelberg, these Raeuchermännchen as they are called in German, were also traditionally manufactured in the Erzgebirge mountains. Used to burn incense to remind us of the gifts the Three Wise Men brought to Jesus on Epiphany day, January 6th.
The Nutcracker is undoubtedly one of Germany’s most sought after gift, and is a famous symbol of the Erzgebirge. Made traditionally by craftsmen who lived in the Thuringian forest, these men believed that a utensil had to be both useful and beautiful. The early nutcrackers were made to protest and mock their leaders and people of authority.
The Christmas market itself is a centuries old tradition that allowed villagers to gather within the market place and barter their goods and wares, whilst enjoying a feast of hot food and drinks. These days, not much has changed from those original markets, each one in Germany specializes in its own local delicacies and traditional products, and today, they serve as a festive meeting place for both locals and tourists alike.
And unlike Christmas markets in the UK, German ones start from as early as the last week of November and run through to Christmas Eve or a day or two before. They are also usually open every day from 10am to about 8 or 9 pm.
Image Credit: © erzgebirge palace