Gone are the days of glitzy office holiday parties, mountains of electronic gadgets under the tree and jetting off to the islands for Christmas. This year has been a return to basics for many. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, refocusing attention on the true meaning of this time of year.
A great way to honor the spirit of the holiday is to celebrate a traditional Christmas and the perfect place to do that is at the Christmas markets in Europe. With airfares dropping so low this year, it’s even affordable.
Although a number of European cities have these markets, they got their start in Austria and Germany. The German markets, or Christkindlmarkt, are the best and date back to the Middle Ages. Christmas markets were originally set up near a town’s church to attract churchgoers on their way to and from services. In the grim winters of the Middle Ages, the market offered bright colors and fun to an otherwise bleak time of year. Many of the traditional items we associate with Christmas, such as Christmas trees, gingerbread, and nutcrackers were brought over to the United States by German immigrants.
These Christmas markets are held in numerous German cities, and some of the most popular are in Munich, Cologne, Heidelberg and Rothenburg. However, the Nuremberg market is considered Germany’s biggest and it’s the one I highly recommend.
Although the Nuremberg Market is set up outdoors on the Hauptmarkt, you won’t notice the chill as you stroll through the market sipping fragrant mulled wine and snacking on hot bratwurst. Children and adults alike will enjoy watching the wooden figures move on the glockenspiel several times a day. The sounds of traditional carols and brass bands accompany you while you wander. The smells of evergreen boughs and baked items and candy shout Christmas as you inhale the scents of the market.
It’s easy to find presents to please friends and family back home. For younger children, advent calendars (which originated in Germany) make a great gift, as children love to count down to the big day by opening the windows and finding a toy, chocolate or poem hidden inside. Older children would enjoy brightly decorated nutcrackers and they keep the kids busy shelling nuts for holiday parties. Coworkers receiving a beautiful glass ornament for the tree would appreciate that the present came from the place where glass ornaments originated, Lauscha, Germany. Family will be excited to sample tasty baked goods such Stollen (a type of fruitcake), Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread), and Pfeffernüsse (spicy cookies with ground nuts).
Although dates may vary slightly in different cities, traditionally the markets start four weeks prior to Christmas.
Via German Tourism