Christmas is a special time all over Germany. Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkts) are the central meeting place in almost every city during the holiday season. These markets usually open on the first weekend of advent and close on Christmas Eve (Heilig Abend). Christkindlmarkts are fantastically festive places meant for shopping, eating, drinking and meeting throughout the advent season.
Forchheim has a very sweet one. There is a Carousel for children and a huge Christmas tree, but the centerpiece of Forchheim’s Market is the Advent Calendar. 15 or so years ago, someone realized that there were a perfect amount of windows on the City Hall (Das Rathaus) to make an enormous advent calendar. So each year three young ladies are chosen to be angels. Then, each evening during the advent season at 6pm, one of the angel opens the window marked with that day’s date and tells a story. Then she gives away a present. The “present” comes from a lottery or a drawing of sorts. Almost everyone in Forchheim and the surrounding villages, buys a ticket or two for the drawing. Each day a prize or a “present” is given to the ticket randomly drawn on that day. The very last day is the 24th. On the 24th at noon all three angels drive out of the Rathaus in a little car and that day the winner of the drawing wins the car! Forchheim is the only place that has this type of advent calendar, most other Christkindlmarkts are closed on Christmas eve. This has become a very festive meeting place on Christmas Eve morning. In the past, the women and children stayed at home on Christmas Eve morning, readying the house, the tree (Weihnachts Baum) and the food while the men went to the town center and drank wheat beer and at the Weisswurst, but now everyone joins in: men, women, children, families all gather for a Weisswurst Frühstück and wait for the angels to come and announce winner.
Last year we visited Christkindl Markts in Nuremburg, Regensburg, Wasserburg and Forchheim. This year we added Coburg and Erlangen.
Nuremburg’s Christkindlmarkt is probably the most famous around the world; it certainly lived up to the hype. Last year I found the prettiest ornaments in Nuremburg. But Regensburg was great fun. This markt is in the garden of a real live princess! The evening we visited, we drank Gluhwein and then she appeared on her balcony with her nieces and nephews and sang christmas songs together with everyone at the market.
I try to get one special ornament at each market if I can. Some are better known for food, some for ornaments, some for activities. As mentioned in a past post, everyone has their own take on Bratwurst and other specialites.
Here is a picture of me with Forchheim’s Weihnachts Bratwurst, an especially long one:
The main drink attraction is glühwein. Glühwein is hot mulled wine, usually red. It’s most often served in mugs. You pay a small deposit on the mug, and get it back when you return it. Or if you want to keep if for a souvenier you can do that too. Another well known drink is called, Feuerzangenbowle. This is a mug full of hot rum, served with a burning sugar cone on the side that melts into the drink. The fire goes out as it melts and then you drink it! In Forchheim the Feurerzangenbowle is always served at a stand that looks like this:
They serve something called Kinder glühwein for children, hot chocolate (Heisse Shokolade), hot rum drinks and other options as well. Glue wein doesn’t actually taste that good from my perspective, but it is a lot of fun and wonderfully warm to stand around chatting and holding the hot mug and getting a little holiday buzz out in the middle of the street. (Especially exciting for those of us Americans who are used to the open container law that keeps us from drinking in the street at will…) Here we are with our Glühwein.
After Christmas the markets close, but a few stands sometimes stay open through the new year. You can keep getting glühwein and the other drinks for a while longer and enjoy the warmth in the middle of the cold. Here are some photos from Erlangen’s Markt:
All photos were shot by Being an american, becoming a franconian and cannot be reproduced without express written permission.