One of Germany’s best-loved traditions: authentic and fascinating folk festivals can be enjoyed today in the United States, Japan, France and England.
From Christmas trees to ginger, German culture has contributed immensely to today’s winter traditions. And while the return of Christmas markets – where the artisans of the house sell toys and sweets for the upcoming feast – is one of the oldest and most popular traditions, these festive markets are popping up all over the world. If you’re not planning a trip to Germany for the Christmas season, you can enjoy four wonderful Christmas markets in the US, Japan, France, and England. Although these markets are located in different countries, they have not lost their horror and authenticity and are all rooted in an ancient tradition.
Chicago’s cozy Christkindlmarket has been deteriorating Daley Plaza in the Loop since 1996. Most of the dealers are German and there are wooden signs on the chalets with the seller’s house name from big cities like Dresden – were one of the markets Oldest Christmas still takes place today – in small villages such as Zwiesel in the Bavarian Forest. Mulled wine and hot chocolate make winter in the Middle East more bearable, while sauerkraut and Spaten München, one of the oldest beers in Germany, brewed since 1397, draws people from all over the city for an authentic European experience.
Traditional hilltops are an unexpected treasure, brought to market each year exclusively from Germany’s the Black Forest. And this year’s program brings a new program until December 24, which will bring famous songs and poems for children closer to the German Christmas tradition. “We expect more than a million people to enter the market this year, including famous actors and sports stars,” said Maren Biester, vice president of German-American Services, the organization that plans German events at the city’s annual Oktoberfest.
Under the Sky Umeda Construction Bridge in Kita-Ku, Osaka’s business district, more than 1.4 million visitors visit nearly 40 chalets each year. The sign at the entrance reads “Welcome to the Christmas Market” – Welcome to the Christmas Market. “Osaka brings the only authentic market of its kind and size to all of Asia; and continues to inspire other cities to host similar events,” explains Andreas Pfister, founder of AGP Promotion Asia, the event agency that launched the Osaka market.
From mid-November to December 25, children and adults alike can enjoy a typically German Christmas, with a German brewery featuring Löwenbräu (brewed in Munich from the 14th century) Homemade ginger and fruit cakes, and Dallmayr coffee imported from Munich. An unusual Santa playing the harp – though not particularly German – entertains visitors and a 27-meter-high Christmas tree with over 200,000 lights flashes across the square. Fourteen shipping containers made the six-week journey from Hamburg to Osaka this year, the main cargo being the historic roundabout and the hand-painted wooden horses. Bratwurst, on the other hand, is made in Japan according to a German recipe. “We want to offer our Japanese friends the best quality, so we don’t send them,” says Pfister.
This welcoming French town of about 66,000 inhabitants in eastern Alsace has five fascinating winter markets, all part of the La Magie de Noel (Christmas magic), a tradition dating back to the late Middle Ages. Surrounded by the rural hills of the Vosges Mountains, the city is the perfect place to experience a festive atmosphere. The narrow streets run through the historic center of the city, decorated with lights, an arch, and wooden ornaments, and the half-timbered houses in different colors enrich the picturesque picture.
Many Alsatians have German roots, as do the traditions of the Christmas market. While some traders from Germany travel across the border, others celebrate their German heritage, such as the potters from Betschdorf. This former German region is known for its glazed salt ceramics and the handcrafted ceramics from family businesses are now a must on the market.
Aside from the ice rink, a lively local scene with an educational farm for kids is always best, and parents can find traditional Alsatian recipes like chocolate and cinnamon crepes or tarte flambée, a pizza dish with onions and crème frache. Colmar’s winter event has grown and grown. “With Germany and Switzerland nearby, we bring a mix of nationalities onto the market every year,” says Pauline Chaboche, press spokeswoman for Colmar Tourism. Festivals usually start in late November and last six weeks. This year they can be viewed until December 31st.
Warm chestnuts were among the first items on German Christmas markets in the Middle Ages and can still be enjoyed today at the Manchester Christmas Market. Originally only German, but today a colorful mix of European heritage, the award-winning City Market takes place in eight beautiful locations across the city and runs until December 23rd. Starting in 1998 with 17 chalets, there are now more than 200 wooden houses with sellers from Spain, Hungary, and Romania as well as Germany.
“Our Ann Square was the first place in the market that it was introduced [and is still] known for its authentic German products,” said Paul Simpson, Director of Visit Manchester. These include ginger hearts, roasted almonds, and mulled wine as well as handmade jewelry and leather bags. Sparkling chalets and Christmas trees are decorated with lights and a bow, and festive music is played while singing. “Christmas is a time of the year when we as a community can celebrate the spirit of the holiday. Markets do just that, “Simpson said.