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Christmas markets and St Nicholas Day

Now that Christmas is just around the corner, Christmas markets have sprung up all over Germany. Typically, there are lots of small wooden stalls selling Christmassy food and all sorts of Christmas related items, for instance wooden toys and decorations from the Ore Mountains.

Weihnachtsmarkt in Warendorf

Räuchermännchen Lebkuchen


One of the most famous Christmas markets is the one in Nuremberg, Franconia. That one is actually called Christkindlesmarkt (literally: Baby Jesus market).


To learn more about German Christmas markets, check out this video series.

Have you been to a German Christmas market? Are there any where you live? What do you like about them? You can write your post in German if you like.

Some vocab:

  • Glühwein (m) = hot mulled wine

  • Kartoffelpuffer (m) = potato pancake

  • Lebkuchen (m) ≈ gingerbread

  • Nussknacker (m) = nutcracker

  • Printe (f) ≈ gingerbread

  • Räuchermännchen (n) = a wooden figurine/incense burner

  • Stollen (m) = marzipan fruit cake

  • Tannenbaum (m) = Christmas tree (literally: fir tree)

  • Weihnachtsmarkt (m) = Christmas market

  • Weihnachtspyramide (f) = Christmas pyramid

By the way, tomorrow (December 6) is St Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag).


The actual St Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop in Myra (in today’s Turkey), who was known for giving gifts to children. As you may already know, he was one of the inspirations for Santa Claus. Der Weihnachtsmann is also known in Germany, but he did not quite manage to oust good old Nikolaus. In Germany, St Nicholas Day is not as big as in the Netherlands, but it’s still an essential part of the holiday season, especially for families with children. Depending on the region and family tradition, children get their small Nikolaus presents on the eve of St Nicholas Day or they find their presents in their shoes the next day. Some people have a Secret Santa like gift exchange (Wichteln).

To learn more about Nikolaus, check out this video.

If you want to know how our neighbours in the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas, check out this post by our Dutch colleagues.

December 5, 2014



For the past 3-4 years, I've spent December playing with the webcams over the Christkindlmarkt in Vienna at city hall. Click on one of the yellow cameras, then in the new tab you'll have a remote with which you can zoom in, pan, switch cameras, etc. (you end up fighting for control sometimes)

Small things amuse small minds.


You shouldn't have told me about the webcams. You'll have a hard time fighting for control :)


I'm always going to assume it's you now.


It isn't even Christmas yet, and already you fellas are fighting over your toys. ;-)


Sorry about that. Here, have some lingots :)


I love Christmas Markets :) Especially the one on Heidelberg castle!


Wow! Gorgeous! I'm planning to go to the Weinachtsmarkt in Zürich this weekend, and was by one in Konstanz this morning.

[Edit] I went! It was great! They had a special "Hütli" for fondue because that's how the Swiss roll! They love to melt cheese! ;) There was also a giant singing tree. :) Well, they put kids up on a decked out tree structure and they sing Christmas songs. Very charming!


There are a number of Christmas markets in Hamburg. The Glühwein and Champignons were very nice when it was below freezing last week.



A couple of years ago I visited the charming Christmas market in Goslar on the edge of the Harz. It was nice to have a warm drink in snow.

Christmas market forest



Nikolaus is quite a versatile character - more complex than Santa Claus. (Not that I'm faulting Santa Claus - he's always been very good to me. Thanks, Christian, and don't forget to put your shoes out tonight. ;-)


Thanks for the reminder! :)


I haven't been to any Christmas markets in Germany yet, but I know there's a small-scale exodus from the Netherlands to Germany this time of year. I think there are actually specific bus services from my home town which take you to Weihnachtsmärkte like the one in Köln/Cologne. :)

I went to the city/village of Monschau in the Eifel region though, in July/August. It seemed real christmassy to me, even in the summer.



I wonder whether Christmas is more alive in Germany than in the Netherlands as a consequence of Nikolaus being celebrated less.

p.s. thanks for collaborating with us on these holiday posts! ^^


Thanks for the inspiration!

Apparently, it's because of Martin Luther that Christmas is bigger than St Nicholas Day. Luther was against the veneration of saints and invented the Christkind as a giver of gifts.

"Das „Christkind“ gilt als der evangelische Gegenentwurf zu Sankt Nikolaus, weil die Protestanten mit der Heiligenverehrung brechen wollten. Bis ins 16. Jahrhundert hinein war Nikolaus der Geschenkebringer. Martin Luther höchstselbst soll es gewesen sein, der das „Christuskind“ an dessen Stelle etablierte. Indem er ein Brauchtum zerstören wollte, schuf der Reformator ein neues. Im selben Zug wurde Sankt Nikolaus als Weihnachtsmann verweltlicht, sein einstiger christlicher Hintergrund verblasste. Als Coca-Cola-Werbefigur kam er in den Dreißigerjahren in Amerika zu neuer Popularität."



I think the buses go in both directions :) http://www.kerststadvalkenburg.nl/


Haha, I never knew!
Perhaps I've been underestimating the quality of the Dutch Weihnachtsmärkte.... (;


I don't know where you live, but try the market in Aachen - it's really lovely as is the old center of town where it is located.


Haha, thanks for the tip! :)


Love this, Christian!


Nice post! Brings back great memories of the four years my family and I spent in Germany, including visiting the Christkindlesmarkt in Nürnberg.

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Danke schön Christian!


This is really interesting info.


Christmas time in Germany is the best. It's when I miss Germany the most.


Going to the Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Market in Vienna last year was pretty awesome, in addition to the other ones scattered about the city and in Budapest where I was studying. They have a Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago but it doesn't compare to the European ones, especialy regarding the comparative price and size of the glühwein (or punsch in Austria, forralt bor in Hungary) you get.

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At Schönbrunn I felt exactly like Anthony Bourdain when he visited during the same time of the year on No Reservations haha


Fabulous. Thanks for sharing this and everyone else who's shared photos of other markets - next year (2015) I will get to one of these, can't wait.


My friends and I are planning on transferring to a German University next fall and I'm extremely excited to see the Christmas events that take place. So exciting!


Very nice post, Christian. Thank you for sharing.


I'm going to the Christmas market for the first time in Aachen this weekend with my school. We're taking about 50 twelve year olds, and it'll be the first time most of them will have been to Germany! I can't wait :)


The Christmas market in Aachen is gorgeous! Drinking Glühwein in the shadow of the ancient cathedral and "Rathaus" is really very special. Of course if you are with 12-year olds there won't be much Glühwein! (I hope for your sake) I hope you have a great time!


Thanks, it was really good!


Very interesting post Christian!

These always seems so gemütlich to me and I can't wait to experience it for myself once. Hopefully I can fulfill that desire next winter! The knockoff markets here probably don't compare...


In case anyone wants some Christkindlmarkt flair at home (and you don't fear burnt sugar), you could try creating Garrapinyades yourself. It's easier than you might think. It's a really delicious snack, but in my opinion it's worth the trouble for the smell alone... hmm... Add some glühwein and make your neighbours jealous. :)

All you'll need are around 300 g (about 2 cups) nuts (typically peeled almonds, but other nuts such as hazelnuts work as well) and some sugar. The following quantities are really just rough estimates. Some deviation won't matter and might be up to personal preference as well.

  • Mix 180 g granulated sugar (~3/4 cup) with 40 ml water (~1.3 oz.) and cook it in a small pot. Wait for it to reach around 120 °C (248 F).

  • Remove it from the stove, carefully drop the nuts in there and stir the nuts with a wooden spoon while everything cools down and coats the nuts in sugar. Make sure it's a wooden spoon. If you don't have one, buy one!

  • Now put the nuts in a bigger pan or pot (you don't want the layer of nuts to be too thick to stir properly) and start heating it slowly while waiting for the sugar to caramelize. Don't stop stirring, to avoid them sticking together or the sugar becoming black.

  • Once you're happy with the results (color of the sugar should be light to dark brown), put the nuts on a baking plate where they're able to cool down once more. Make sure there's enough space so they don't stick together.

Garrapinyades are best served while still warm (but make sure they're not hot anymore). They're still good once cold though. If you'd like to keep them for a while (really?), make sure to seal them airtight.

You can use either kind of granulated/refined sugar--brown or white, it's up to you. Unfortunately you can't use any fake sugar for this. If you want to, add some cinnamon to the sugar before cooking it.

Also some warning: Liquid sugar may become very, very hot (up to 185 °C/365 F)! Be very careful when handling it and keep it away from your children (in fact, keep children and pets out of the kitchen just to be sure). If you get something on your skin, immediately cool the affected area with cold water (for at least 5 minutes) and consult a doctor in case it's somewhere in your face or some other sensitive area.


Last year I lived in Germany. This year I'm having Weihnachtmarkt withdrawal :(

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