Also referred to as Christkindlesmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt
Tis the season! Meaning the Christmas Market season in Germany, where there are (normally) more than 3000 annually.
For decades U.S. military families who had the good fortune to have spent a few years in Germany still reminisce about the Christmas Markets. It’s one of those celebrations many wish they could take back to the states with them when they leave. While a few cities in the states try to mimic them, seldom are they as awe-inspiring as the ones they anticipated every year in Germany.
2020 has played havoc around the world; no need to reiterate all the ways individuals, families and businesses have been affected. Many people worldwide are ready for 2020 to be over with, believing the start of 2021 will mean new beginnings, and the end to what many would like to discover was just a bad nightmare! But some of us in Germany are still holding out hope that 2020 is not a complete write off; that just maybe the November restrictions (lockdowns) will “fix December”. Yes, we know there’s a good possibility this year will be the first since the history of Christmas Markets, that there are none to (safely) attend, but we are the optimists who are in such desperate need of “good vibes” that we are still hanging on to the slightest possibility.
Speaking of the history of Christmas Markets, we are going to talk about that. However, I want to first discuss what we already know for sure. Some of the largest, most famous, and most anticipated Christmas Markets have already cancelled for this year. Among them are Aachen, Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Heidelberg, Hanover Heilbronn, Karlsruhe, Leipzig, Munich, Nuremberg, Potsdam, Rothenberg, Rüdesheim, and Stuttgart (there are actually too many to list ALL of them!)
However, City authorities have not yet totally pulled the plug on Hamburg’s Christmas Market (far north) or Bayreuth (Bavaria), and Koblenz is still up in the air. Others that have not (yet) been cancelled include the smaller markets Berlin hosts other than their big one, and Christmas Markets in Bamberg, Kaiserslautern and Mainz, among others. The Regensburg Christmas Market, in Bavaria, officially started on Sunday, November 22 (click here for specifics relating to COVID safety measures).
For a really good list of those in BAVARIA which have NOT been cancelled, this looks to me to be a trustworthy site. (Probably a site worth saving; lots of other valuable insights about Bavaria too!) This site even has a list of the markets that are in historic sites; pretty cool!
While many people in Germany can’t wait for all of the really large Christmas Markets to open, my personal preference are the smaller ones like Rüdesheim and Rothenberg; they are way more intimate and the crowds are much more manageable.
Please note that the information I’ve shared could change by the end of November. Also, many sources for this information contradict each other so I didn’t site any of them; based on the resources available (online and print media), what is shared above APPEARS to be the best update on Christmas Markets in Germany. If you are aware of any corrections, please note in the comments section.
Thinking about those outside of Germany and their status as of today’s date? Prague is cancelled, but Christmas Markets are taking place in Strasbourg (France), Salzburg and Vienna (Austria) and Zurich (Switzerland). Due to the pandemic, many may look and feel different than their norm; most will have some form of distancing measures. The only one of those listed here that I can relate to is Salzburg, which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas Markets!
Now, for my (and your) friends and family, living in the states who are only guessing exactly what a Christmas Market (also known as Christkindlesmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt) is, and where/when they originated......
A Christmas market, (which is known by a couple different names across Europe) is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany but are now held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern regions of France.
Traditionally held in the town square, the market has food, drink and seasonal items from open-air stalls accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. Popular attractions at the markets include the Nativity Scene, carved Nutcrackers, toasted almonds, traditional Christmas cookies like gingerbread, Bratwurst, and for many visitors one of the highlights of the market: Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), which helps stave off the cold winter air which sometimes dips below freezing.
Because Wikipedia tends to deal with facts (although they don’t always even get those right), there’s never any emotion or sentiment attached to those facts, so I’m going to tell you it’s a bit more than described above. Also, many of them go beyond the weeks of Advent; a few even extend until New Year's Day.
For many wide-eyed children, it’s an opportunity to meet Chris Kringle, to eat child-friendly treats, and to discover many hand-made toys. But for the child in the rest of us, there’s often street performances, areas to gather and meet others while sipping warm Glühwein (in years when gathering isn’t an issue), to discover the works of artisans from all over Europe, to find unique Christmas gifts for friends and family that aren’t likely to be found in retail stores, and to taste holiday specialties unique to Europe. But most of all, young or old, it’s an event that brings everyone together for the same purpose – to celebrate whatever this season means to YOU! Nobody cares where you call home, what language you speak, or what your religious beliefs are. Although for many, the Christmas Markets help them “get their spirit on”, others are just happy to be out in the fresh air (likely very cold!) with others who are kind-hearted. How do I know that? Well, if you weren’t kind-hearted, I’m thinking a Christmas Market is the last place I would find you!
If things had gone a little different, Christmas Markets of 2020 could have been a celebration far better than any in years gone by; it would have signaled that “we made it”……..that we beat the pandemic and can return to whatever is going to be our new normal. It would have meant that everyone is hopeful about whatever the new year brings!
Since that is not the case, for German Christmas Markets, or for any other holiday celebrations worldwide, we can create our own! No, we can’t bring everyone together in a city, or in many cases, not even in our own households. But we can make the most of 2020 in our own homes. Instead of filling the house with holiday décor for all the entertaining you would normally be doing, do it for yourself! You don’t need a Christmas Market to enjoy some Glühwein; fill your home with the smell of some mulled wine or at least some pine-scented candles to go with your favorite Christmas music. If you have trees in the back yard, fill them with battery operated LED miniatures (which have become VERY inexpensive) to create your own winter wonderland. It’s a little harder to emulate snowfall, but it’s very easy to sit around a fire pit or on a patio that has an outdoor heater with a glass of Glühwein.
" COVID may be keeping many of you from being with your loved ones, but don’t let it keep you from making the most of the holiday season with those you CAN be with! ”
COVID may be keeping many of you from being with your loved ones, but don’t let it keep you from making the most of the holiday season with those you CAN be with!
And for those who are in Bavaria and REALLY missing Christmas Markets, check out this Drive-Thru Christmas Market!
Learn how to make your own Glühwein! Most recipes use red wine; don’t feel compelled to do that. Some of the best I’ve ever had in Germany is the rare WHITE Glühwein!!
I’m going to deviate my norm by sharing a personal story. One year I visited my little sister in New York City for the holidays. In the days leading up to Christmas we both became horribly ill with the Flu and were cooped up inside a very small apartment, feeling too poorly to decorate, to find/wrap gifts, or to solicit any Christmas spirit. But by Christmas morning we woke up feeling better and didn’t want to miss out on Christmas Day. So, we put ourselves together the best we could, and ventured out to do something……….anything! Mostly what we found was city full of closed stores, and hardly anyone on the streets. But then we stumbled upon Tavern in the Green (an iconic NYC restaurant/landmark), which was closed but still had piped-in Christmas music playing throughout the courtyard, which is draped in miniature lights year-round. We danced in the courtyard “like no one was watching” (because they probably weren’t!) and sang along with the piped-in Christmas music. That was thirty years ago and remains one of my favorite memories.
Sometimes we have little or no control over the circumstances pre-empting our holidays and/or celebrations; we have to make the most with whatever we are dealt ♥
Best wishes for a great Thanksgiving wherever you are, and with whomever you're sharing it. Here's to all the Christmas Markets we will be exploring in 2021!