Advent is a much-beloved season in Germany, celebrated in church and in private homes.
Every child has an advent calendar, either store-bought or homemade, and filled by the parents with candy, coins, and small toys. Lighting a candle on the advent wreath each Sunday afternoon is a ritual celebrated in many families, usually accompanied by coffee and tea and goodies like Stollen and Lebkuchen.
Christmas markets are “the icing on that advent cake”. They seem to be written into the German DNA as much as a desire for orderliness and fast driving on the Autobahn.
Markets in cities and bigger towns start in late November and end days before Christmas while smaller towns may host theirs for only a few days. Offerings expand every year and range from food and drink (think sausages, gingerbread, mulled wine, candied nuts), handcrafted items (from pottery to wooden toys) to stars.
Germany has a love affair with stars for the festive season, and they range from pretty paper stars to the beautiful Moravian stars that now come in all colors and sizes.
Christmas markets are a feast for the senses. And there is nothing better than catching up with old friends over a mug of gluhwein, mulled wine.
I recently returned from a family visit to Germany. Airfare from Philadelphia to Frankfurt was very reasonable at $650, and lines at the airport were short. I spent quality time with my parents, relatives, and neighbors and also got my Christmas market fill: in my hometown of Arnstadt, Erfurt, and Weimar, all in the state of Thuringia.
I was able to see good friends and reconnected with old Kindergarten friends over a steaming mug of mulled wine, and now Christmas may come.
If I could shout it from the roof I would: Erfurt has one of the prettiest Christmas markets you’ll ever see. It’s held in a large picturesque square, Domplatz, with an impressive cathedral and St. Severi Church forming the backdrop on one side, and half-timbered houses lining the other. The scene brings tears of joy to my eyes every time I go.
These photos and all of the above are shots of Erfurt’s markets.
I visited the newly opened Bauhaus Museum in Weimar and had some time before my train left.
Naturally, I checked out the Christmas market, held around the historic National Theatre. It was quite a sight to see the monument to the two great German writers, Goethe and Schiller, surrounded by an ice skating rink.
There is no magic quite like Christmas market magic.
Though the Germans do it exceedingly well, markets are deeply embedded in many European cultures. You can find excellent Christmas markets in big and midsized cities all over Europe, including in Leiden, Budapest, London, Vienna, and towns around Greece. We offer holiday Untours in all of these places, so start your planning for 2020.