Christmas markets in Germany and their history

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Christmas markets in Germany - Frankfurt

How did the Christmas markets in Germany come about?

Every year, the Christmas markets in Germany lure visitors into a world full of scents, spice aromas, gingerbread and warming drinks during the Advent season. For us, too, Christmas markets are a goal that we like to head for. They are now available in many variations. They can be traditional. But there are also Christmas markets that stand out from the usual. who are more creative. more sustainable. Or also typical for certain ethnic groups. Have you ever wondered how and when the Christmas markets in Germany came about?



Sweets at the Advent market
Sweets at the Advent market with chocolate and fruit

Originally it was supply markets and trade fairs

You have to go way back in history to do that. In addition, the voices do not agree on which is now the oldest Christmas market. However, it seems that these originated in Austria and Germany. However, the authors are not so precise with the data. If the author of an article in the world is to be believed, the first December market took place in Vienna held in 1296. The NDR puts the beginning of the Viennese “winter market” back to the year 1382. Yet another describes the Munich Christmas market as the oldest, which took place for the first time in 1310. At that time, this was still called the Nikolausmarkt. The Wenzelsmarkt in Bautzen also took place in the 14th century, starting in 1384. The Striezelmarkt in Dresden was held in 1434 for the first time. The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg and the Lebzeltermarkt in Augsburg are similarly old.



So there have been Christmas markets in Germany for hundreds of years. However, the early Advent markets served different purposes than the Advent markets in Germany today. The main aim of these winter markets was to provide the population with everything they needed for the winter. They were comparable to sales fairs. These gave the citizens the opportunity to get meat and other goods that they needed in winter.


Dresden Striezelmarkt
Dresden Striezelmarkt – one of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany

Lent before Christmas

Unlike Christmas markets in Germany today, these markets were all about supply. Because the time between St. Martin's Day and Christmas was a period of Lent at that time. At the St. Martin's Day one filled one's belly one last time before fasting for 40 days afterwards. Just like before Easter. Only the Advent weekends were exempt from fasting. Few know that today. Lent before Christmas was forgotten.

Nevertheless, people needed food for the winter. They could get these at these winter markets. The townspeople of that time also bought meat for the holidays at these markets.

The Christmas markets in Germany in the Middle Ages were held in the cities

Markets were something special in the Middle Ages. While people in rural areas were able to take care of themselves, this was different for city dwellers. Markets could only be held if rights to do so existed. City law was closely related to this. Craftsmen and merchants lived in the cities of the Middle Ages. Their tasks focused on these areas. In addition, they usually lacked the space in the city to raise cattle or grow vegetables themselves. Therefore, the sovereigns or city lords made it possible to organize markets at certain times of the year. The townspeople had the opportunity to get meat and vegetable supplies for their own consumption. Often these markets also offered opportunities to spend a special day.

Jugglers appeared on the markets and presented their tricks. Bänkelsänger performed their songs. And of course there were spices that the local farmers made themselves. Wine and spices were also included. The way to grog or mulled wine was not far away. Very similar to what we know from Christmas markets in Germany today.


Christmas markets in Germany
Gingerbread and mulled wine tempt you


Christmas markets to get you in the mood for a Christmas party for the bourgeoisie

The step to the Christmas markets in Germany as we know them today was not far away. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Christmas increasingly developed into a family celebration. People began to give each other gifts. Toys for children appeared in the markets. Fasting in the run-up to Christmas faded more and more into the background. Instead, spiced wines were served at the winter markets. The specialties of the region also came more and more to the fore. The Dresden Christmas Stollen were created at that time. The first nativity scenes appeared in the markets. They originally came from Italy.

Christmas markets in Germany in times of crisis

There are hardly any exceptions where there were no Christmas markets in Germany. Only during the Second World War and the period afterward were there no markets during Advent. However, in the years before the outbreak of war, the Nazis used the markets for their own purposes propaganda purposes. Even during the Corona period, the markets were only closed at the peak of the pandemic. Although the change in energy production is now forcing people to save electricity, the markets are taking place. Maybe with lights turned off earlier than usual. Or with lamps that save electricity. However, very few people want to do without it completely.

Punch for home

You can also make yourself comfortable at home with this range of punch varieties. Order the punch here*.

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Christmas markets in Germany
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Source: own research partly with the support of local tourism authorities. However, our opinions remain our own.

Text: Monika Fuchs and TWO
Photos: Pixabay and Unsplash

Christmas markets in Germany and their history

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Slow Travel and Enjoyment travel blog TravelWorldOnline Traveller. You have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Your topics are Trips to Savor and wine tourism worldwide and Slow Travel. During her studies, Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she traveled to the USA and Canada - sometimes together with Petar Fuchs - and spent a research year in British Columbia. This strengthened her thirst for knowledge, which she pursued for 6 years Adventure Guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as Study tour guide for Studiosus Reisen tried to breastfeed all over the world. She constantly expanded her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: “What is beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do you eat in this region?” These are the questions she is now trying to answer as a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), among others. travel writer and travel blogger answers in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is below Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021 Other Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs. Recommendations on LinkedIn from tourism experts Further recommendations from cooperation partners and tourism experts Professional experience Monika on LinkedIn