The Christmas season (Weihnachten, in German) is in full swing now, and that means one can expect three things in almost every German town and city: snow, Glühwein, and Weihnachtsmärkte! Though I’m sure many of you dear readers are familiar with snow, I suspect you’re less familiar with the traditional German drink of Christmas and the festively-decorated markets where you can always find it, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about both.
The tradition of the Weihnachtsmarkt originated in Southern Germany and Austria. Some of the oldest Weihnachtsmärkte (plural of Weihnachtsmarkt) date as far back as 1384 (in Bautzen, Germany.) Since then, the tradition spread across Germany and even into the north of France, and now today you can find a Christmas market in every major city in the German-speaking world, and many smaller towns. Some of the most famous Weihnachtsmärkte include the Strietzelmarkt in Dresden, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, Berlin and Munich’s Weihnachtsmärkte. Often, the market is set up in the town or city square, though in larger cities there are often several Weihnachtsmärkte, typically in the pedestrian zones. Though Weihnachtsmärkte have not always been so brightly decorated and world-renowned, they have always been and continue to be a place for artisans and shopkeepers to sell their wares and for the public to shop, eat, drink, and celebrate the days of Advent leading up to Christmas.
For some Germans, eating and drinking are the most important parts of the Weihnachtsmarkt. It’s not uncommon to see large groups of people gathered around a table enjoying roasted sausage, Schupfnudeln (a rolled noodle similar to gnocchi), or soup along with a hot mug of Glühwein. Glühwein is one of my favorite discoveries in Germany. Though the recipe differs depending where you buy it, it is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, citrus juices, and a little sugar. It’s the perfect thing to drink outside on a cold December night.
I’ve had the chance to visit Weihnachtsmärkte in several cities, but one of my favorites was Saarbrücken. Their Weihnachtsmarkt stretches all the way down the middle of their pedestrian zone, which is flanked by restaurants and shops, and ends at their market square. The square contains all the shops and food stands you would expect at any other Weihnachtsmarkt in a city the size of Saarbrücken, but they had something extra.
As my friends and I found out, every night during Advent “Der Fliegender Weihnachtsmann” (the flying Santa Claus) rides across the square, suspended from wires. He was accompanied by a smiling, waving angel below him, and some sort of German Christmas song. It was delightful.
I’ve only just scraped the surface of information about Weihnachtsmärkte, and I’m told that people come from all over the world to visit these things. If you’re interested in more information, check out a few of the links below (they’re where I found most of my information.) Also, if I get the chance to visit any more markets, I’ll be posting more pictures here.
I’ll have one more post before the new year, but since I’m not sure if it’ll be up before Christmas (Germans celebrate on the 24th), Fröhliche Weihnachten und alles Gute für das neue Jahr! (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)