I’m thrilled to have Nicole Basaraba, who lives in Brussels, Belgium, to tell us about a low-tech, low-stress holiday tradition in Europe. Allow your imagination to conjure up the sights, sounds and aromas of the Christmas Market.
The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. The Bautzen Christmas market was first mentioned in records in 1384. The Dresden Christmas market, with over 250 stalls, was first held in 1434 and is one of the oldest Christmas markets and it attracts between 1.5 and 2 million visitors a year. In many towns in Germany and Austria, Advent (coming of Christmas) is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or “Weihnachtsmarkt”. In southern Germany and Austria it is sometimes called a “Christkindelsmarkt” (in German means “Christ child market”).
The markets are generally held in the town square and pedestrian zones, which makes it even more festive. I know the farmers markets in my hometown in Canada are held in the massive parking lots of grocery stores. You just can’t beat the feeling of wandering through a small village made of wooden stalls, covered in Christmas decorations and exuding the smoke of the grills cooking Bratwurst sausages, the sweet smell of “Christstollen” – an egg bread with candied fruit – the spices of hot mulled wine (Glühwein) or even the perfumes of fancy soaps. If you’re lucky you may even get to hear and see traditional singing and dancing. On opening nights onlookers welcome the “Christkind”, or boy Jesus, acted out by a local child.Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, the Sunday from November 27 to December 3, inclusive, and this is the time when most Christmas markets begin in Germany. Popular attractions at the market I’ve been to in Cologne, Brussels and Paris, include not only the food, but also the handmade toys, artwork and Christmas tree decorations and ornaments. In Cologne (Germany), Brussels (Belgium) and Paris (France), there are multiple Christmas markets to visit. I really enjoyed the big “Marche de Noel” in La Defense area in Paris. With 350 chalets featuring gifts and goodies from a number of different countries including Germany and even Canada, there is something for everyone. Some other cities that appear to have some excellent Christmas markets are Vienna (Austria) and Sibiu (Romania).
These markets are a Christmas tradition in Europe that I truly enjoy because you can have even more fun while shopping in the open air surrounded by wanderers eating, drinking and laughing instead of trying to push past you to grab the last item on the shelf or get ahead of you in line. The market atmosphere definitely gets you into the Christmas spirit.
European ways are so much more relaxed and less commercial. Sounds wonderful to me, Nicole! Thanks for being here.
How about the rest of you? You know we love hearing from you, so chime in with your feedback on this cool piece of history.
Growing up in Western Canada, Nicole Basaraba was always skipping to her own beat. Not being a hockey fan, having no skills in skiing or snowboarding, always being cold, and having never tasted maple syrup, she is what you might call a “bad” Canadian. Having studied some history in university and always dreaming of seeing Europe, Nicole moved to Brussels, Belgium to live, work and travel of course. She soon discovered that there is more to Belgium than just its delicious chocolate so she decided to stay in Europe for an undetermined period. Working in print publishing and website content management by day, she writes travel articles, book reviews and other lifestyle/culture articles about her fun and crazy experiences in Europe by night.