There truly is something magical about this time of year! You can almost feel peace, wonder, hope and belief in the air. In the midst of darkness, there is a light and it is precisely that feeling that has kept the Christkindlmarkt markets in Germany and throughout Europe a Christmas tradition dating back to the original market held in Bautzen, Germany in 1384. Today there are over 2,500 throughout Europe, welcoming over 150 million visitors.
Christkindlmarkt translated means “Christ Child Market” and are traditionally opened on the Friday before Advent and run until Christmas Eve. While they have grown in numbers and sizes since 1384, they still have maintained much of the same charm with the lighted wooden stalls, selling handmade toys and grub, decorations, songs and celebrations and of course Gluhwein, a hot mulled wine! Many of the markets still have Christkind open the market, and each of them hold their own charm.
It was the protestant reformer, Martin Luther, who actually is attributed with having children receive gifts on Christmas Day! The tradition up until this time was that children would receive gifts on December 6th, the traditional feast of St. Nickolas. However Luther wanted to move the focus away from the gift giving by St. Nickolas and instead link the receiving of good things with the receiving of the greatest gift of all; God among us! By the end of the 16th century this idea had already spread throughout Germany and gave a huge boost to the Christkindlmarkt’s.
The biggest Christkindlmarkt is still held in Germany, Nuremberg to be exact! For over700 years people have come to enjoy their Lebkuchen, a spiced gingerbread and of course their Bratwursts. Each year they welcome over 2 million visitors.
Since 1434, Dresden Germany has held a Christkindlmarkt, where they are well known for their Striezel, a German Christmas Cake. While it cannot claim to be the oldest, it is still drawing from a richtradition (and claims to be the 2nd oldest!)
May you and your family enjoy this holiday season together, celebrating your unique traditions as well as the global traditions that unite all of us to still believe in the Magic of Christmas!