Experience the magic of Christmas in Germany

Herald Union file
Visitors enjoy the Sternschnuppenmarkt, or twinkling star market, in downtown Wiesbaden.

The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, the sound of Christmas carols and a taste of warming Glühwein will put anyone in the holiday spirit. Visitors will find that and more at the magical Christmas markets throughout Germany and its neighboring countries. When strolling around the markets, one can enjoy traditional German specialty foods and drinks, handmade arts and crafts and music. Since it is the season to be jolly, the following list may make this year’s Christmas market visit especially memorable:

Food and drink
German Christmas markets offer a wide range that will warm hearts and hands during the cold winter month. The well-known Glühwein, warmed red or white wine infused with spices and oranges, can be purchased all over the markets. The various market booths serve the wine in commemorative mugs that differ each year. Those not interested in starting a personal Christmas market mug collection can return the mugs for the charged deposit. An equally enjoyable alternative and similar to Glühwein, “Feuerzangenbowle” is made with a rum-soaked sugar cone that is lit on fire and caramelizes into a bowl of mulled wine. For the chocolate lovers, “Lumumba,” hot cocoa with a shot of rum, may also be worth a try. The Christmas markets also offer an assortment of non-alcoholic drinks, as the little visitors (as well as adults) can enjoy spiced juice, known as “Kinderpunsch.”

Sweet tooth cravings will surely be satisfied at a Christmas market, as visitors can enjoy traditional German sweets as well as Crêpes and savory grilled Bratwurst. The popular German gingerbread known as “Lebkuchen” is sold next to “Stollen,” a German version of fruitcake that is often filled with marzipan and coated in powdered sugar. In Frankfurt, one can find the popular “Bethmännchen,” a traditional marzipan pastry, decorated with almonds. The delicacy originated in the banker Bethmann’s family, who had four sons that were represented by four almonds on the cookie, until his son Heinrich died. Therefore, until today, Bethmännchen are only decorated with three almonds.

Arts and crafts
German world-renowned craftsmanship can be experienced while visiting one of the markets. Hand-carved nativity scenes line up next to nutcrackers, Christmas “pyramids,” decorative wooden tiered carousels with candles that cause them to turn around, and little incense smoker men, referred to as “Räuchermännchen.” Especially remarkable are the wooden life-sized nativity scenes and Christmas pyramids that often create the center point of a market.

Intricate glass ornaments, paper star lanterns, woolen goods, handmade soaps and honey and spices are also available at market stands.
Those who want to immerse themselves even further in German Christmas culture, can find an “Adventskranz,” a pine wreath decorated with four candles to be lit each week after the first Sunday of Advent.

Markets in the area

Sternschnuppenmarkt Wiesbaden:
Beautiful light arrangements welcome visitors to the “Sternschnuppenmarkt” (“Twinkling star market”) in downtown Wiesbaden. Located between the Rathaus and Stadtschloss, and around the Marktkirche, visitors can experience more than 130 booths and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the holidays. Presents are handed out daily at 5 p.m., starting Dec. 1 on stage in front of the Rathaus, when a new Advent calendar window is opened. On Dec. 6, small visitors will have the chance to meet the Nikolaus at the market. More information about the market and the Christmas season in Wiesbaden can be found online at www.wiesbaden.de/microsite/weihnachten-en/index.php.

Weihnachtsmarkt in Mainz:
Located across the Rhein river, people can enjoy the historical Mainz Christmas market. One hundred stands and sparkling lights illuminate the Domplatz, in front of the scenic, 1,000-year-old St. Martin’s Cathedral. A special attraction is the 36-ft tall Christmas pyramid at the entrance of the market. Find out more here: www.mainz.de/en/service/christmas-market.php#img0-1:7.

Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt:
One of the oldest markets in the local area is the “Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt.” Located in the old part of town, in the midst of Römerberg and Paulsplatz, the giant Christmas tree and more than 200 market stands enable visitors to soak up the scenic surroundings and holiday spirit. Visit www.frankfurt-tourismus.de/en/Discover-Experience/Events/Festivals-in-Frankfurt/Frankfurt-Christmas-Market to find out more about the market and its opening hours.

Rüdesheimer Christmas Market of Nations:
The “Rüdesheimer Weihnachtsmarkt der Nationen” does not only offer items and foods from more than 15 nations but it also has Europe’s largest nativity scene with life-sized figures. Explore the spirit of the season by wandering through the well-known “Drosselgasse” and enjoy Rüdesheim’s historical charm along the Rhine river. Information on the market can be found here: www.europeanbestdestinations.com/christmas-markets/r%C3%BCdesheim/.

Heidelberg Christmas Market:
Located in the old town city center of Heidelberg, the romantic setting of the Heidelberg Christmas market beneath the city’s famous castle, invites its visitors to enjoy the festive holiday spirit. The market stands, lined up throughout one of Europe’s longest pedestrian zones, allow visitors to immerse in a winter wonderland of lights. Opening hours and locations can be found on the website, at www.heidelberg-marketing.de/en/events/highlights/christmas-market.html.