Each and every year Christmas Markets spring up around the world signalling it is the beginning of advent and, more importantly, it’s Christmas time!
This centuries old tradition dates back to a time when seasonal markets took place regularly throughout the year, specifically Christmas markets, which were happy occasions for locals who were becoming weary of the long winter nights.
It is often thought that Christmas markets originated in Germany, before it became a nation state, the earliest known Christmas market, ‘December Market’, was situated in Vienna, Austria and dates back to the year 1298.
They were traditionally held in a square, with stalls lining the streets with food, drink and seasonal items, similar to our very own today.
But, modern markets have taken these traditions and multiplied them. Thousands of towns and villages immerse their streets and squares with strings of lights, decorations and beautiful Christmas trees, in a bid to create the most impressive markets to attract people from miles around.
Germany takes the spotlight when it comes to the largest market in the world. The famous Dresden market, which dates back to the fifteenth century, breaks records each year. It showcases over 100 events in its program, including traditional crafts, festive foods, drinks and the infamous gigantic stollen – a traditional German fruitcake.
The Budapest Christmas Fair, Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen and Strasbourg in France also excel when putting on a Christmas market.
German Christmas Markets were first brought to the UK after the town of Lincoln twinned with the town of Neustadt in Germany. Originally just 11 stalls in 1982, it now takes over most of the cultural part of the town with more than 200 stalls.
Over the last 15 years Christmas markets have popped up all across the UK, with so many different cities and towns declaring their own to be the best in the area.
Most cities stick to the modern market which has developed over the years to include rides, crepe stands, hundreds of lights, huge Christmas trees and hot pig roasts!
Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester are among the cities which have kept the German market tradition going. Edinburgh has even adapted their city to having two markets simultaneously, the European Christmas Market located in the centre of the city and a cultural Scottish façade on the outskirts.
The award winning Bath Christmas market is set in the picturesque streets that surround the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey. It hosts more than 170 traditional stalls and for this year there will be a snow-globe selfie station!
Birmingham hosts the biggest German Christmas Market outside of mainland Europe, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the event! The Birmingham museum and Art Gallery boast stalls with sample pretzels, schnitzels and bratwurst, not to mention the mulled wine!
London, Manchester and our neighbours Leeds are all on the list and host hundreds of wooden stalls and chalets containing delicacies from all over the world. All with majestic back-drops for their markets and are definitely great places to spend the weekends leading up to the big day!
Words: Abbey Harmsworth