Christmas time and Christmas markets in Germany
In a previous blog post you can read everything about German Christmas tradition which vary between families and the part of Germany you are currently staying, living or grew up in.
Today I don’t want to talk about the traditions, which of course play a huge role during Christmas time. I’d prefer to talk about Christmas time in general and especially Christmas markets – a huge, undeniable and unforgettable part of Christmas in Germany!
Christmas in Germany
Christmas in Germany isn’t just 24th till 26th December, no, we start our Christmas the last weekend of November, the 1st Advent. Some families celebrate this time by baking Christmas cookies and putting on the first Christmas carols of the season. Those days the house or flat smells like freshly baked cookies and the first are eaten right of the baking tray, still hot from the oven – my favourite part of baking. Oh, and of course a Gluhwein (mulled wine) is an essential while baking all these wonderful treats. My family eat our first Christmas Stollen (fruit loaf) during this weekend.
The week before the 1st Advent the Christmas markets open their gates, which basically means all nourishment during the Christmas period will come through visiting the Christmas markets! It’s a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy this jolly good time together.
As you may be aware, we Germans love our Christmas markets. Most of us are looking forward to them the whole year, well maybe from around September onwards! The cosiness, decorations and the lights makes it all so special. However, the events that coincide with the Christmas markets are what makes them extra special. In some of the surrounding towns near where I come from local families open gates to their private yards. People offer mulled wine, cake, cookies and their own handcrafts. The children meet Santa and all is very jolly.
The Christmas markets differ from town to town. Some are modern and some are more traditional. I always preferred the traditional ones where there aren’t any roller coasters or lottery stalls. But the best stalls for me are those who sell traditional foods, hot beverages and of course some traditional handicraft-goods, like smoking manikin (Räuchermännchen) or other wooden toys or decorations. That’s what makes Christmas markets special, for me at least.
Advent in Germany
The Advent period contains four Sundays, starting with the last Sunday in November. This year it falls on 27th November. Most of the families have their Christmas decorations already up and waiting for the day they can light the first candle on their Christmas wreath. My family puts up several wreaths: on the doors, on the living room table and on the dining table. The wreath on the dining table has 4 candles for each Sunday in Advent. As a little child my parents made me say the following verse every weekend and it’s still a family tradition:
|Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt…(Volkstümlich)||Advent, Advent, a light is shining…(traditional)|
|Advent, Advent,||Advent, Advent,|
|ein Lichtlein brennt!||A light is shining!|
|Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier,||First one, then two, then three, then four,|
|dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür!||Then Father Christmas will be at your door!|
Those four weeks up to Christmas are very busy. You need to buy last minute Christmas presents, visit friends and families before the end of the year and the appreciate the sacred Sundays for extra cosy family times. We like to spend the day sitting by the open fire, drinking hot beverages or going for a winter walk or to the theatre. I just love this time of year!
Here I present you some lovely Christmas markets in Germany, the ones you need to visit during your next German language course during the Christmas period (and some are even open until New Year’s Eve).
My top 10 Christmas Markets in Germany are:
1) The Christmas market at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin is one of the prettiest markets in Berlin, I would say. The setting alone is marvellous, in front of the palace which will be illuminated when it’s dark.
2) Another wold famous Christmas market is in Nuremberg/Bavaria, the so called Christkindlesmarkt. This traditional Christmas market combines the cosiness of Nuremberg and the smell of roasted chestnuts.
3) The Augsburg Christmas market is considered one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany. To be honest I’ve not yet been there myself, but I’ve only heard great things. Some special highlights the Augsburg Christmas market offers, apart from a nice atmosphere and Gluhwein, are the Christmas Angels who play every Friday to Sunday at 7pm. The town hall is also transformed into a giant Advent calendar! It’s a must see when you’re there on your German course.
4) Another fantastic Christmas market is also in Berlin. The WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt is worth a visit as not just the setting is very special but also all the special events this Christmas market offers!
5) Another great city with another great Christmas market: Hamburg! Hamburg isn’t just this hip Hanseatic city up in the North of Germany! It also puts on a very nice Historical Christmas market in front of the city hall. Even Santa likes it so much that he comes to visit three times a day to bring joy to everyone!
6) If you want to experience a medieval Christmas market, Munich has something to offer for you! During the Advent season there is a typical Medieval Christmas faire taking place where you can enjoy a rustic time and see how the people celebrated back in the days.
7) Okay, I admit Vienna isn’t technically Germany but the city does offer a spectacular Christmas market. I’ve been there once and I very much loved the atmosphere and you can take it all in while sipping a lovely hot coco or some eggnog or well, a Gluhwein. Viennese people love their Christmas market as much as we do and so it is no wonder that the Vienna Christkindlmarket is situated in front of the city hall and you can experience everything from traditional Christmas treats to ice skating and stalls selling traditional handicraft! I think it’s a good place to unwind after a long day (practicing German).
8) I adore the Aachen Christmas market! One of the prettiest in all North Rhine – Westphalia! When you’re in Cologne and you have a little time on your hands and don’t know what to do with it, then take the train to Aachen! It’s just about 30 minutes by train from Cologne. I always went there for my dose of German Christmas spirit when I was living in Brussels. Aachen is also one of the oldest cities in Germany, so you get a little idea of the history there. I just love Aachen! The Christmas market is situated in the centre of the town only divided by the old cathedral and town hall.
9) Not far from my hometown and only one hour by train from Berlin, is Leipzig. One of my favourite cities in Germany. This town nurtured some great musicians like Bach or the world famous Thomaner choir. But during the Christmas period Leipzig transforms itself into a Christmas town. The whole city is a Christmas market starting at the main train station up to the main shopping street and all around the market place. It’s just fantastic and there is a great diversity in the stalls. There is a “children paradise” just for children with candy stalls and a fairy-tale ferries wheel waiting for them to enter. Just opposite there is a Finnish Christmas market (at least it was last year) with salmon roasted over an open fire! What’s not to love here?
10) And just two hours by train from Berlin is Dresden. This year the famous Striezelmarkt celebrates 582 years of existence and is one of the oldest Christmas markets in all of Germany. It’s one of the most traditional Christmas markets with loads on display, introducing traditions form the Erz Mountains region in Saxony. Children can go and bake their own Christmas cookies or Christmasstollen (fruit loaf). Parents take time over a lovely hot drink outside or do a little Christmas shopping. Dresden itself is a cultural highlight with the Frauenkirche and Zwinger. So don’t miss a chance to go!
Hopefully I inspired you to take a language course in one of the German destinations over the Advent period. I hope you are able to experience the joy of Christmas time in Germany or Vienna and see all the twinkling lights!