Many Christmas traditions can be traced back to Germany including Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and the advent calendar. One tradition that draws thousands of people worldwide to Europe in December is the Christmas Markets, also known as Weihnachtsmärkte.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, short one- to three-day open air markets took place in the beginning of December so townspeople could stock up on necessities in preparation for the cold winter months. Craftsmen and bakers in the following years started selling wooden trinkets, toys, nuts, gingerbread, and candies. The markets soon became longer and filled with more seasonal items instead of survival necessities. They transitioned to become a festive place for friends, family, and neighbors to gather and celebrate the holiday and take their minds off the cold winter days ahead.
Typically held in a central location in town (in bigger cities more than one market can be found), rows of open air booths will fill the area and a large Christmas tree, decorated festively for the season, usually towers above. The whole square is transformed into a winter wonderland and even some rides will be brought in for the children’s’ entertainment. The town of Dresden, Germany is home to the oldest Christmas market with the first official recording dating back to 1434. Germany is also home to some of the largest markets in the world such as Nuremberg and Leipzig containing well over 250 booths!
Today, if you find yourself walking through the rows of vendors at a Christmas Market one can expect to see hundreds of local crafts and gifts to buy as well as plenty of food to try such as lebkuchen (gingerbread), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), and steaming Bratwurst. Music, sparkling lights, laughter, and great smells will fill the market drawing hundreds of people each night. The biggest crowds are huddled around the glühwein, a spiced wine served warm. The popular Christmas drink is a staple during the market season which commonly lasts from late November to just before Christmas Day.
While BreyerFest happens in July, we hope this year’s celebratory gathering of horse lovers from around the world will emulate the spirit of the popular German Christmas Markets!
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