A few years ago, my family had the opportunity to go overseas and live in Germany for two years. The first year was 2008 in Baumholder and the next time being Vilseck in 2010, after my parents wanted to return for the second time. Of course, there were tons of things to do besides traveling. You could visit the ancient castles which still stood magnificently despite their age, or walk through the historic downtowns and visit the antique shops, and also the numerous aqua and amusement parks. However, once winter set in, and snow covers the German streets, it becomes hard to do some of these things that require going outdoors. Nonetheless, many residents flock to the Historic Christmas markets that happen every year, held in cities, towns, or villages throughout Germany.
These markets were no ordinary markets, and were one of my favorite things to look forward to every year. Gaining popularity throughout the years, it seemed as if all of Germany congregated at the streets, decorated with sparkling lights and ornaments. Even at school, we once had a trip to one of the markets, where I had the opportunity to secretly buy my parents some handmade gifts for Christmas (which they definitely enjoyed!). In those two years we spent in Germany, our family visited many unique Christmas markets in various cities and towns, from the Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt to Munich’s central platz with its moving figures clock and others including Salzburg, Dresden, Weiden in der Oberpfalz, Trier, Luxemburg, and Stuttgart. In addition, we went to a Christmas market in Paris, which was equally magical and full of delicious pastries, except everything was in French.
When first arriving to the markets, I thought I arrived at a labyrinth because there were stalls followed by more stalls, the stands extending out forever and the lights as much as four miles long. At the same time, it feels as if you’re in a fairy-tale winter wonderland, snow on the ground, huge white horses pulling carriages of people in the streets, carolers singing German traditional songs even until midnight (which I didn’t understand but still sounded nice, of course) and carousels for children and adults alike.
Most came to these markets bundled in layers of jackets and warm gloves and hats (hand warmers are a must have!). The cold winter weather being the reason many turned to the warm atmosphere of the Christmas markets. There you could find hot chestnuts, sausages, holiday drinks, and baked goods, the smells wavering throughout the market. My favorites were definitely the baked goods, such as the doughnuts with berry jam on the inside, gingerbread, and cinnamon raisin cakes (my mouth is watering as I think of them…).
As for items, the markets are filled with handmade crafts! Traditional figurines, candles and mugs of all shapes and sizes, homemade jams and honey, tiny people made out of nuts, hand-carved cuckoo clocks, and tiny nativity scenes.
Unfortunately for most of us, Christmas markets don’t last all year as they usually start the Friday before Advent and end on Christmas Eve. So, if you ever happen to visit Germany during the winter season, make sure to stop by these historic markets filled with traditional gifts and goods instead of rushing to stuffy malls for souvenirs made in China. If you are reading this now, Weihnachten (Christmas) is already over but make sure to plan for next year. Come one, come all, to the best German Christmas markets of all!