Christmas is a time for rejoicing and celebrating the birth of Jesus as well as eating too much and swapping gifts! The beginning of December welcomes the opening of countless Christmas markets around the world and they are a fun and traditional way to shop for seasonal gifts and decorations. Christmas markets originated in Germany and Alsace and they are now held on the streets for the four weeks of Advent in countries all over the world including Romania, Argentina and Spain.
A History of Christmas Markets
Christmas markets boast a long and interesting history and one of the oldest of its kind is the Dresden Christmas Market that was first held in 1434. However the Bautzen Christmas Market has been running since 1384 and German Christmas markets remain some of the most popular markets in the world although many countries have since adopted the seasonal market spirit. Food and drink as well as singing and dancing are commonplace at Christmas markets. Various seasonal items are for sale that range from handmade jewellery through to arts and crafts and these traditional offerings have been part of the Christmas market scene since their inception.
Attractions and Gifts
The stalls found in Christmas markets usually sell a range of Christmas decorations and souvenirs that are often handmade by local businesses, children and charities. A firework display may mark the opening of the markets along with nativity plays and copious amounts of dancing and Christmas carol singing. As the markets are usually held on the streets, the stalls are temporary and range from basic tables to wooden huts and shacks. A tall Christmas tree will often boast centre stage at Christmas markets and decorations will be for sale at the various stands. Christmas cookies and seasonal gifts are usually on sale as opposed to gifts that don’t have a Christmas theme found in shops and stores. Warm drinks accompanied by hot snacks are often found in these traditional markets.
Here are a few of the more common features found in worldwide Christmas markets:
• Central location
• Music and dancing
• Plays and nativity decorations
• A novelty Santa dishing out presents
• An ice rink
German Christmas Markets
Around two million keen Christmas shoppers flock to Dresden every year for its market and it has more than 60 stalls to explore. Many of the German Christmas markets and others around the world have popular opening nights that will welcome various plays and scenes often performed by local school children. Fireworks, Christmas lights and decorations can be seen for miles around. Glühwein is a mulled wine that can be drunk with or without an additional shot of brandy in the German Christmas markets and this can be found with ease along with some tasty German treats such as bratwurst and stollen.
Christmas Markets around the Globe
Countries such as the US and the UK soon took onto the idea of hosting Christmas markets, even though the German Christmas markets remain the oldest and the most popular. Cities such as New York and London also attract millions of avid Christmas shoppers with Manchester and Strasbourg proving to be extremely popular. The only noticeable difference between the markets held in different areas around the world is generally found in the food and drink offerings, although these only change slightly between countries. Mulled wine is easy to find throughout all Christmas markets and this can be altered with additional shots of alcohol depending where you are in the world, while snacks will also vary from London’s roasted chestnuts through to America’s toasted pretzels.