History of German Christkindlmarket
Christmas markets have been a German tradition since at least the mid 1500s. Seasonal markets were held in Germany year around. Christmas markets were an especially joyous, anticipated event, as they brought light and and laughter to a cold, dark season.
Each town had a unique market. Local tradesmen sold their wares at the market, which gave each market an individual flavor. Food and beverages served were produced in the region, so each town’s offerings were a little different. Tradesmen lined the streets with handmade wares, displaying distinctive regional characteristics.
Christmas markets, known as Christkindlmarkts, were a festive meeting place for people. Villagers bought and sold homemade Christmas ornaments, decorations, and gifts. Traditional German handicrafts at the markets included hand carved nutcrackers, wooden smokers, wooden figures, cuckoo clocks, straw ornaments and blown glass ornaments.
Martin Luther’s Role in Christmas Customs
Religious reformer Martin Luther played a major role in our current Christmas customs. Luther instituted new Christmas gift giving traditions. Before Luther, the exchange of Christmas presents took place on the Saint Days of St.. Nicholas (December 6) or St. Martin (November 11). The tradition of giving gifts to children on Christmas became a boon to the Markets.
Martin Luther suggested that children receive presents from “The Christ Child”, Christkindl. German Christmas Markets are called Christkindlmarkt.
The Christkindl delivers presents to children on Christmas. Christkindl is a romantic, fairy like being, dressed in white and gold, with golden hair topped by a golden crown. Christkindl is the German equivalent of Santa Claus.
Christmas Markets Across Germany are Unique Celebrations
Towns, cities and villages across Germany celebrate unique Christkindlmarkts. The markets in Munich, Berlin, Rothenburg, Nuremberg, Frankfort, Baden Baden and every other town serve different foods and sell different handcrafted wares that are specialties of the region. Larger cities, such as Munich, have more than one market.
Christmas markets are a delightful way to begin holiday festivities. The crisp, cold air fills with the fragrance of sizzling sausages, sweet pastries, spices and hot spiced gluhwein. Booths sell sweet treats, such as chocolates, cakes, pastries,cookies and candies. Music of Christmas fills the air, in preparation for Christmas.
Christmas markets are preparation for the Holy Christmas day. The days following Christmas are a time for family gatherings and holiday meals.
Today’s markets are much the same as they have been for hundreds of years. The crowds at the German Christmas markets today are likely much bigger than they were hundreds of years ago, but the markets are still a warm, friendly gathering place and a festive part of the Christmas holidays.