Christmas markets – a German tradition

Whether Christmas market, Advent market, Christkindlesmarkt, Striezelmarkt or Weberglockenmarkt – during the pre-Christmas period markets are held all over the different towns and cities of Germany. These would not be complete without stalls offering a variety of mulled wine, roasted almonds, as well as arts and crafts. Those who have been abroad before during the Christmas period know that the for us Germans so commonly known Christmas market is by no means found everywhere in the world. But how come?

Sales fairs in the late Middle Ages

The origins of the German Christmas market can be found in the 14th century, the time of the late Middle Ages. Typical shops that grace town centres these days did not exist around 700 years ago. As a result, so-called sales fairs were held in selected towns to allow citizens to stock up on warm clothing, meats and other items needed for the approaching winter. Even back then craftsmen were represented at the sales fairs, offering items such as toys or wicker baskets. Even today’s typical sweet chestnuts or almonds could be purchased on the markets around 700 years ago.

The oldest Christmas market in the world

Viennese traders got the right to hold a December market as early as 1296. To this day, it continues as the Christkindlesmarkt on the Rathausplatz in Vienna with 145 stands and is thus considered the oldest Christmas market in the world. Far less known, but almost as old, is the Wutzelsmarkt in Bautzen. It is considered „Germany’s oldest Christmas market stated in a chronicle“ and has its origins in 1384 as a meat market. Furthermore, this year the Dresdner Striezelmarkt takes place for the 584th time. Following a decree of the Elector of Saxony Frederick II, the market was explicitly allowed to take place on „Heyligen Christ’s Evening“.

Export hit Christmas market

For some years now, Christmas markets, based on German and Austrian design, have been enjoying international popularity. Since 1990, for example, the first Christmas market in Italy is being held in Bolanzo. Even in the Anglo-Saxon area, there was no equivalent to the German Christmas market until the 1990s. Since then however, larger cities in the US, Canada and the UK have been hosting such events, e.g. the „Vancouver Christmas Market“ including mulled wine, bratwurst, goulash, spaetzle, Schnitzel, potato pancakes and strudel. German cultural heritage can also be found on the Texas Christkindl Market, allegedly the only place in the southwestern United States where „Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas decorations“ can be purchased. The choice in the US is innumerable, ranging from Cincinnth Christmas Market in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Canandaiuga Christkindl Market in New York, to the Christmas Market in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Even Disney is part of this trade and builds the „Germany Pavilion Epcot World Showcase“ every year in Orlando, Florida.

The largest Christmas market outside Germany and Austria, the „Frankfurt Christmas Market“, takes place every year in the English West Midlands, in the city of Birmingham. Likewise, fans of German cosiness can be found in Asia. This year, the „Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market“ in Japan replicates the appearance of the Cologne Christmas Market – including sausages, Christstollen and „German Nippes“.

Discover the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany

Do you suddenly feel like going to a Christmas market? Check out our collection of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany!
Click here for the collection.