The annual events that highlight tradition and local craftsmanship feature their own unique touches, such as a Miners’ Parade in Freiberg and kids’ elf services in Annaberg.
So many Christmas markets — 2,500 to be precise — and so little time. Advent is only a month long, so how do you narrow down which German Christmas markets to visit? Consider the markets in eastern Germany. Largely unexplored by North Americans, the states of Saxony and Thuringia offer a cornucopia of Christmas markets that harken back to medieval days, when peasants started selling handmade crafts so they could purchase food to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Leipzig Christmas Market’s heritage dates back to 1458, when the first Advent market had been recorded. Now, the several Christmas markets across the city cater to all age groups. Leipzig’s Childrens Christmas Market is the city’s most family-oriented market, and it includes a Fairy Tale Forest in front of the Opera House. This attraction is popular with children, who have to find four mistakes in various Grimms’ Fairy Tales displays. Details here. – runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 23.
This small city of 42,000 inhabitants in Saxony’s Ore Mountains carries an 800-year silver-mining tradition that once made Freiberg a wealthy city. Mining heritage is held in high regard here, and the most popular event during the Freiburg Christmas Market is the torch-lit Miners’ Parade. Actors dress in historical mining costumes, each based on the type of mineral mined, and parade through the city on the second Saturday of Advent (Dec. 3 this year). The event causes hotels in the area to sell out a year in advance. Details here. – runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 22.
Like Freiberg, Annaberg-Buchholz has one Christmas market that comes alive with local traditions during Advent. The entire town turns into a Christmas mountain that includes an oversized wooden Christmas pyramid and enormous Christmas tree. The Annaberg Christmas Market features handmade gifts, elf services for children, miner and traditional Advent events, and regional treats reminiscent of food straight from grandma’s oven. It all lends a special flair to the event. Details here. – runs Nov. 25-Dec. 23.
Wartburg Castle in Eisenach
Martin Luther, who sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517, not only lived in Eisenach, he translated the New Testament into German in the nearby Wartburg Castle. Today, the castle hosts the Wartburg Castle Christmas Market, which is open on the four Advent weekends. Only local vendors who offer quality, handmade gifts are permitted to sell their wares at the market, which is perched high on a mountain in a magical and medieval setting. Details here. – Nov. 26-27, Dec. 3-4, Dec. 10-11, Dec. 17-18.
Home to world-renowned writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, the Weimar Republic, the Bauhaus movement and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Weimar is the base of many historical episodes and persons. It’s also home to the Weimar Christmas Market, where kindergarten-age children squirm and squeal in anticipation as St. Nicholas lowers a bag of presents from the old town hall, turned into an Advent calendar. It’s simply heartwarming. Details here. – runs Nov. 22-Jan. 6
Handmade Christmas ornaments – By TTG Jens Hauspurg All Rights Reserved
Christmas glassware – by Joseph Frey All Rights Reserved
Annaberg Christmas Market – by Tourismusverband Erzgebirge All Rights Reserved
Freiberg Christmas Miner’s Parade – by Ralf Menzel All Rights Reserved
Leipzig’s Children’s Christmas Market – by Joseph Frey All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published in the Toronto Star.