Over the festive season, a long lived tradition which cities and countries take part in is a family day out at the Christmas Markets. To name just a few; the famous Dresden market in Germany, the London South Bank and the Birmingham Markets in England. Visitors are granted the pleasure of these bazaars but unfortunately for the people running the stalls it is a cold occupation being out in the elements.
Germany in particular is well known for their extensive variety of markets, because in the 16th century, Germany is credited with starting the tradition of Christmas trees being brought into the home. The Christmas tree was known as a foreign tradition until 1848 when Queen Victoria encouraged her husband Prince Albert to decorate a tree as he had done in his childhood.
Generally, different markets sell similar products: plenty of Christmas decorations, arts and crafts and of course food and drink, including the well-loved gingerbread. However, it is always possible to find a few hidden gems. Over in Germany, they sell more local handmade gifts with many unique designs that are harder to find in the London Christmas Markets. For example, there are a range of brass Christmas carousels with decorative tin bases; one carousel advertisement states that you should “Light the candle and bring the magic of Christmas to life as the charms gently rotate”. When the cinnamon fragranced tea light is lit, the wheel spins round with the charms. This simple Nordic themed gift has a range of personalised charms with the names of your loved ones to purchase.
This year, the South Bank Christmas Market had its very own Christmas Tree Maze and Circus Show, relished by many young children and families. Also the wooden huts gave a traditional rustic feel to the atmosphere. Surprisingly, there were few items which were appropriate for Christmas presents; their focus was centred on creating a fun and entertaining experience for all.
The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair is the largest authentic German market outside of Germany. Similar to the South Bank market, the stalls were all packed next to each other in adorable wooden huts. Even though the winter temperatures have suddenly dropped, the market was packed late into the night. Despite both cold and wet weather, visitors’ spirits at all markets are revived with warm drinking chocolate and mulled wine. The Christmas lights mixed with the smell of food helps to lure people in. When the sun has set and the sky is jet black, the lights stand out and contrast well against the darkness. One peculiar argument is that most of the fun is spent browsing rather than actually shopping!
Overall, it is debatable which Christmas Market is the greatest and there can never be a true answer. A competition for the best market seems almost unnecessary as the commonality between them is the warm, cheerful atmosphere generated whilst exploring the stalls, rides and games. So at this time in January, where we begin to mourn the Christmas just gone, just remember that Christmas spirit, how infectious it was, and how warm and fuzzy it’ll feel when Christmas comes again.