December's Culture Article

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Christmas Markets

In many towns in Germany and in Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the town's Christmas market or Weihnachtsmarkt. In southern parts of Germany and in Austria often they are also called "Christkindlmarkt" or "Christkindelsmarkt" (which translates as Christ child market). Generally held in the town square and pedestrian zones, the markets combine food and drink in the open air, shopping and pageantry as well as tradition. On opening night and, in some towns, every night, onlookers welcome the Christkind, or Christ child, in the form of a golden-haired angel played by a local youth.


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Some of the most popular items at these markets are the Nativity Scene (also known as a crèche or crib); Zwetschgamännla (figures made of decorated dried plums); Nussknacker (carved nutcrackers); Gebrannte Mandeln or candied, toasted almonds; assorted cookies like Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread); Christstollen or Stollen, a sort of egg bread with candied fruit; and not least, Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an egg based warm alcoholic drink), to keep the body going in the cold winter air. Many other homemade crafts and toys, books, and (in recent years) more or less useful gadgets can be found at a Christmas market.

The most famous Christmas markets are held in the cities of Nuremberg, Dresden, and Stuttgart, making them very popular tourist stops. The Nuremberg and Dresden markets draw about two million visitors each year, the Stuttgart market alone attracts more than three million. Other well known markets are held in Cologne, Bonn, Lübeck, Vienna, Salzburg and Villach.

German immigrants brought the Christmas celebrations with themto America,and there are some Christkindlmarkt events held in the United States as well. Two examples are the Chicago Christkindl Market and the Denver Christkindl Market.

Strasbourg, France has been holding a Christmas market (Christkindelsmärik in the Alsatian language) around its cathedral since 1570. It is believed that it is one of the oldest Christmas markets (Nuremberg's was first held in 1628, Stuttgart's 300 years ago). It draws between 1.5 and 2 million visitors each year and has over 60 stalls. Christmas markets are also traditional in the Alsace and most towns have their local Chrismas market. Colmar, Mulhouse and Selestat's Christmas markets are also famous.

They are also becoming increasingly popular in the UK and a large Christmas market is held every year in Birmingham, England, with visiting traders from its twin city of Frankfurt. The market claims to be the biggest German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria with over 75 stalls booked for 2006.

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Source: Edited by Lynne Hand from an original Wiki article.