Germany is definitely a magical country during Christmas time. The country’s first Christmas market dates back to 1434. Today, over 2500 Christmas markets take place in picturesque settings throughout Germany. The Christmas markets usually begin around the last week of November and go until the first week of January. Decorated booths are fully stocked with handcrafted gifts such as wooden nutcrackers and smokers, toys, Nativity scenes, and various other favorites. The aroma of freshly baked goods and traditional German food fills the air. Typical favorites include roasted almonds, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), grilled sausages and gluhwein (mulled wine). A number of German cities are infamous for their Christmas markets, such cities include:
DRESDEN, IN EASTERN GERMANY (Open 11/24-12/24)
• Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas market, founded in 1434
• It’s inimitable appeals comes from its Christmas tree, Pflaumentoffel(prune men) and the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world at 14 meters high
• Offers various treasures such as, carved wooden items, blue printed articles and pottery, intricate handmade lace, hand-blown Christmas tree ornaments,gingerbread, and genuine Dresden Christstollen
NUREMBERG, IN SOUTHERN GERMANY (Open 11/25-12/24)
• The Christmas Angel opens the market on Hauptmarkt square in the old quarter
• Offers a medieval atmosphere with delicious aromas of gingerbread, Nuremberg bratwurst and gluhwein, as well many Christmas decorations and gifts
• Has an additional children’s market with a traditional carousel, a Ferris wheel and a steam train
KOELN, IN WESTERN GERMANY (Open 11/21-12/23)
• Takes place at an impressive backdrop with Koln’s Cathedral in sight
• Stalls with little red roofs sell various gifts and sweets, novelty items include spekulatis (thin sliced biscuits), candles and soaps shaped like the Koln Cathedral, and hot-sliced punch
• Visitors can watch marzipan and “tree cakes” being made or watch the local craftsmen at work
HAMBURG, IN NORTHERN GERMANY (Open 11/21-12/23)
• Offers both a historical and traditional atmosphere in several squares of the city’s center
• See Roncalli’s Circus artists serving hot punch on the town hall square and the five traditional “fantasy boats” anchored along Jungfernstieg with homemade Christmas cookies, magic shows and jugglers
The markets transform Germany into a Christmas wonderland that creates a magical atmosphere for all of its visitors. I would suggest visiting a Christmas market and experiencing the festivities it has to offer you. I was fortunate enough to visit the Nuremberg Christmas market three years ago and experienced a festive event that I will never forget. I went to the Christmas market on the perfect wintery day, with heavy snowflakes filling the air and beautiful Christmas lights and decorations surrounding the area. It was definitely a picturesque and festive sight!
Karneval is the German’s pre-Lenten season or die fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) of their year. Depending on the region of Germany, it may be called either Fastnacht (Night of Fasting) or Fasching as well. My relatives are familiar with Fasching based on their somewhat southern location. As a child, I used to think that Fasching was the German version of Halloween, but I have since learned that is has a much greater meaning.
Carnival in Rio Janeiro is possibly the most famous version throughout the world. As Americans, we are familiar with New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, which is the French-influenced version of this celebration. Almost all of the Catholic regions and cities in the German-speaking world (and the rest of Europe) celebrate the event in some way. Germany’s Karneval is quite similar to such events and begins on different dates depending on the day of Easter each year. However, most traditional regions celebrate its start on the 11th day of the 11th month and continue a low key celebration for the next three months before the Tolle Tage (crazy days). This early date gives the organizers 3 to 4 months to prepare for the events that lead up to the big bash on the week before Ash Wednesday, when the Lenten season begins.
Germany’s most recognized Karneval event occurs in the city of Köln, which had its first celebration in 1341. Köln’s version of Karneval climaxes with a parade on Rosenmontag (Rose Montag), the 42nd day before Easter. The city has elaborate Umzüge (parades) where the event is celebrated. The parades have colorful floats made of paper flowers and marchers dressed in handmade customs, such as paper mashea caricature heads and additional masks carved out of wood. The floats are not only beautiful, but also represent satirical, political and traditional topics. As the floats pass by, those aboard pelt sweets at their spectators on the street while they sing the many old Karneval songs. In addition, the celebration includes a royal court with princes and princesses of the event. The royal court is protected by Prinzengarde (bodyguards) to remind the crowd of the city’s tradition of anti-militarism.
Except for Munich’s Oktoberfest, Karnvel is one of the few times of the year when many normally serious German’s loosen up and go a little crazy. Karneval is definitely another event that is something that I would like to get the chance to experience.
Here’s a German drinking song that is typically sang during the Karneval season.
Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Bier her, Bier her, oder ich fall um!
Soll das Bier im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Ohnmacht kriegen?
Bier her, Bier her, ode rich fall um!
Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um, juchhe!
Wein her, Wein her, oder ich fall um!
Soll der Wein im Keller liegen
Und ich hier die Rheumatismus kriegen?
Wein her, Wein her, ode rich fall um!