Written By Pratichi Satpathy (Grade 7)
Christmas is the time of the year for happiness, joy and cheer; and you know what gives me happiness, joy and cheer, and brings the spirit of Christmas come alive within me? Christmas. Markets.
Christmas markets trace their origins back to Vienna, 1296, when Duke Albrecht introduced fourteen-day markets in December. However, despite their closeness in timing to Christmas, they were not really connected or religious, so it is doubted where it was the true origin of the market. Other historians state that Christmas markets may have mainly German origins which spread to German-speaking parts of France, Italy and Switzerland. Come along with me, on this merry journey, as I take you through the top five Christmas markets from around the world!
First up, we have the most beautiful Christmas Market, and the most famous one in Austria – Wiener Christkindlmarkt, on the Rathausplatz, Vienna. Every year, around a hundred booths are set up here. On the culinary front, one finds everything from cream filled pastries to more traditional food, like Fladenbrot, which is a kind of flatbread with delicious toppings. Moving on to the arts-and-crafts side, Christkindlmarkt truly has the best of the best. Artisans from Austria and neighbouring countries flaunt their work here.
Moving on to one of the first genuine Christmas markets in the world, Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Germany. It was founded as a one-day market in 1434 and celebrates its 588th anniversary in 2022. Striezelmarkt boasts two hundred and forty stands, and attracts 3 MILLION visitors from around the world. At the back of the market is a giant, painted fairy-tale castle. Puppeteers open the ‘magical’ doors each day and hold a marvelous puppet show for the teeny tots attending the festivities. Striezelmarkt has not only the typical attractions of Christmas markets, like wooden carvings, ornaments and delicious food, but also the tallest Christmas candle pyramid in the world. Other eccentricities associated with Striezelmarkt are the world’s largest, usable Christmas arch, fitted with candles to represent the mining history of the place and special Christmas ornaments native to the place.
If you think caves are only for cavemen, bats and nocturnal animals, Geementegrot Christmas Market, in Valkenburg, Netherlands, is here to prove you wrong. Held in caves, it is the most famous Christmas market in the Netherlands, and probably the most unique one in the world; according to me at least. The ancient looking yellowed walls and the vastness of the labyrinth-like market makes it a mystical experience. The food is unique in itself – Grotbol, Gluhwein (mulled wine) for the adults, and Chocomel (chocolate milk) for the kids. It’s quite easy to awaken the spirit of Christmas in yourself, as you wander down the market, which is a perfect blend of past and present, history and modernity.
It is hard to talk about Christmas and not think about the snow-capped scenery of Switzerland. But have you heard of the Montreux Noël, with its truly magical flying Santa display? Yes, you read that right. Montreux Noël Christmas market is another visual feast, with mind-blowing decorations, and its world renowned flying Santa Claus sleigh. Families with young children can relive the magic, by visiting Santa’s home and office, and meeting Santa Clause himself! The main market consists of 170 stalls and chalets on the quays of Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. The traditional Christmas delicacies are found in shops scattered here and there – chestnuts, crepes, chocolates, whatnot. Of course, the classic mulled wine is sold, but unlike German traditions, in disposable cups. Not only scrumptious food and out-of-this-world décor but also activities and fun workshops, with themed festivities lay in store for families and children here!
Winchester is said to be the Christmas capital of England, and for good reason! This cathedral town hosts a huge Christmas market, attracting 400,000 people every year. Unlike most of the other markets in this list, this market was founded quite recently – in 2006, in fact. Winchester Christmas market was awarded one of the eight best Christmas markets in Europe, and is a sensory feast. It takes inspiration from the traditional German Christmas markets, and carefully chosen artisans and crafts persons come from all over the United Kingdom. At Winchester Christmas market, you can find all the tantalising delicacies in one spot – German bratwurst sausages, British fish and chips, French raclette cheese – you name it, they have it! The Christmas spirit here is so powerful, that even the CoViD pandemic could not stop it – in 2020, their first online market was held to help small business owners – isn’t that the true essence of Christmas?
To conclude, I would like to give you a small reminder – Christmas is not about gifts, or grandeur or decorations. It is about kindness, care, and spreading joy. It is about family and friends and relationships. It is about magic – the magic of love and innocence. This Christmas, I want you to remember that. No matter where you spend your time – be it in a Christmas market, or at home with your family, or with your friends at a shopping mall – never forget the true spirit of Christmas.
Featured Image Courtesy – Veranda