I had the pleasure of visiting some beautiful Christmas Markets during our recent family trip to Germany. It was so nice to visit them with my children and show them a part of Germany that I truly missed, especially during the holiday season.
Christmas Markets date back to the Late Middle Ages in Germany and Europe and usually open the first weekend of the Advent Season. The larger markets are open the entire Advent Season, while small towns tend to only have one or two weekends in which they are open. I was pleasantly surprised that the markets have started their season earlier than when I lived in Germany 13 years ago but wondered at the same time whether this would mean they have become more commercial – the answer is a resounding no.
I lived for over 14 years in Heidelberg, so of course I was going to compare all Christmas Markets to what I remembered and loved about the Heidelberger Weihnachtsmarkt: beautifully decorated wooden stands selling lots of homemade wares. I distinctly remembered the ceramic mug stand where you could get a lovely hand painted mug with your name on it. Mugs were always in yellow or blue. Wooden toys for sale, hand made pottery, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, beeswax candles and delicious treats to eat and drink.
During our travels visiting family and friends, we were able to see Christmas Markets in:
Some things had changed over the years, but what was still present at all of the markets I visited was the non-commercial aspect of the holiday. Yes, people were selling their wares but most of it was hand made, or at least not mass-produced. There were many lights and decorations but it still seemed cozy.
Berlin and Heidelberg both had ice skating rinks, which are always fun to watch. All of the markets had some type of rides for children.
And of course all of the markets have delicious food and drink to buy. Glühwein and Kinderpunsch to keep you warm and gebrannten Mandeln (roasted almonds), Schmalzkuchen (fried dough balls), and crepes were some of our favorite snacks. We tried the regionals sausages at each market. I was sad at first to see that Heidelberg didn’t have a stand selling my beloved Schupfnudeln with Sauerkraut (finger noodles with sauerkraut) but then found them at the market in Durlach.
The Durlacher Weihnachtsmarkt had changed the most since I moved to the States. They wanted to stand out from their larger neighbor, Karlsruhe, so about 12 years ago they decided to hold a middle ages Christmas Market. What a treat that was to see! Bow and arrows, swords, animal skins, wooden utensils and bowls were some of the items that could be seen at the various stands. Durlach also had children’s rides but the difference was that they were powered by a man turning a wheel and not by electricity.
The Christmas Markets make the gray and dark days of November and December so much more pleasing. Nothing brightens up a day like a warm mug of Glühwein and a stroll through the markets with family and friends.
More pictures from the Christmas Markets: