A Christmas market is an outdoor market associated with the Christmas celebration and traditionally held during Advent. There is everything about the Christmas party but also about Saint Nicholas. Historically, Christmas markets were located in Central and Western Europe in countries such as Austria, Switzerland and Germany, as well as in eastern France (Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté). More recently, they have spread to other cities around the world.
The first Christmas market was held on December 6, 1294 in Vienna for Saint Nicolas. The first traces of the Christmas markets date back to the 14th century in Germany, under the name of “Market of Saint Nicholas“. The first document relating to a Christmas market is dated 1434 under the reign of Frederick II of Saxony, evoking a “Striezelmarkt” which took place in Dresden on the Monday before Christmas. Later, the Reformation perpetuated the tradition by renaming it “Christkindlmarkt” (market of the Christ Child) to fight against the worship of the saints. The Christmas market of Strasbourg dates from 1570, that of Nuremberg from 1628.
In the 19th century, Christkindelsmärik (in Alsatian) stood at the Frohnhof (corvee‘s square) between the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, the Rohan Palace in Strasbourg and the Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame (now the place of the castle) and took place eight days before Christmas and until midnight mass.
A renewal took place in the mid-1990s. Many cities in Europe have established their own Christmas market with chalets and sometimes attractions (ephemeral skating rink, big wheel …) thus offering a more commercial market.
Attraction, stands, stalls and shops
Christmas markets are usually organized by the municipality throughout the month of December. There are small stalls with Christmas decoration items. Popular attractions in the markets include the Christmas Crib, traditional Christmas biscuits, regional or artisan products, small gifts and food (traditionally hot wine, cinnamon, cakes). New objects have recently appeared in the markets like toys, books, gadgets …
The markets are also accompanied by Christmas illuminations as well as other animations (street or pyrotechnic shows, Christmas music in a sound environment), attractions …
Notorious Christmas markets
- France: Alsace, Region Aquitaine, Burgundy, Region Brittany, Center-Loire Valley, Champagne-Ardenne, Franche-Comté, Ile-de-France, Lorraine, Nord-Pas- De-Calais Normandy, Pays de la Loire, Picardy, Provence, Rhone-Alps
- Germany: the biggest and/or oldest are the Christmas markets of Aachen, Augsburg, Bautzen, Berlin-Spandau (most of the chalets: 400), Brunswick, Chemnitz, Cologne (the busiest: 5 million visitors a year), Dortmund, Dresden, Erfurt, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Munich (the oldest: since 1310 ), Nuremberg (the most famous), Rostock and Stuttgart, but also where many cities, towns and historic monument of Germany (among other Baden-Baden, Bad Wimpfen, Durlach, Freiburg im Breisgau, Castle Heidelberg, Hohenzollern Castle, Gengenbach, Maulbronn Monastery, Montjoie, Rothenburg, Saarbrücken, Trier, Triberg) feature Christmas markets, especially in South Germany. Besides fir trees, Christmas pyramids are installed on many Christmas markets in Germany.
- Switzerland: Montreux as well as Basel, Bremgarten, Brienz, Willisau, Winterthur, Lucerne, Berne, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Zurich and many other cities organize their own market.
- Belgium: Brussels, Liège, Mons
- Luxembourg, that of Luxembourg-Ville.
- The Netherlands, those of Dordrecht and Maastricht.
- Canada: the first edition of the Christmas Markets Joliette-Lanaudière, a unique event, started in Joliette in Quebec with the illumination of the city on November 23, 2007, the festivities are untied until December 23 and attracted close to 50,000 people. The largest Christmas market in Quebec is now the L’Assomption Christmas Market, which has attracted some 150,000 visitors during the past 12 years. A Christmas market has also been organized in Québec City since 2010 by the Community of Québec. Also in Canada since this year, a French Christmas Market in Toronto, the Toronto French Fair since 2014.
- Austria: Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Kitzbühel, Linz, Villach and Klagenfurt.
- Italy: Bolzano, Sterzing, Bressanone, Merano, Trento, Arco, Levico, Rovereto, Trieste, Udine, Pordenone, Sauris, San Daniele del Friuli, Moggio Udinese, Villa Santina, San Vito al Tagliamento Spilimbergo, Palmanova, Sacile, Muggia , Venice, Belluno, Conegliano in Veneto, Turin in Piedmont, Bologna in Emilia Romagna, Rome in Lazio, Naples in Campania.
- Monaco: Monaco.
- Spain: Madrid.
- Greece: Athens.
- UK: London (Hyde Park), Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Canterbury, Lincoln, Cheltenham, Nottingham, Chester, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Portsmouth, Belfast, St Edmunds, Winchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Ireland: Dublin, Killarney.
- Denmark: Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus.
- Sweden: Stockholm, Skansen and Gothenburg.
- Norway: Oslo and Trondheim.
- Finland: Helsinki, Turku and Rovaniemi.
- Latvia: Riga.
- Estonia: Tallinn.
- Poland: Cracow.
- The Czech Republic: Prague (Old Town Square).
- Slovakia: Bratislava.
- Hungary: Budapest (Vörösmarty tér).
- Romania: Sibiu.
- Slovenia: Ljubljana.
- Cameroon: Douala.
- Japan: Sapporo (Park ōdōri), Tokyo (Ginza International Forum).
- Russia: Moscow.