As Christmas looms closer, have you ever found yourself in the “pre-wrapped, generic gift baskets” section of the store desperately looking for something to give the hard-to-shop-for friend or neighbor on your list? Maybe an exotic jerky assortment or wine bottle-shaped cutting board really is the perfect, most thoughtful gift for them. And maybe being in that big chain retail store makes you feel extra connected to the Christmas season. But if not, you may want to look for your nearest European-style Christmas market.
On the Seventh Day of Imported Christmas, we went to a local Christkindlmarkt (literally translates to Christ child market) to find unique gifts for loved ones, try delicious food, and experience the moments of awe and connection to Christ that make the season so special.
These Christmas markets grew out of winter markets documented in Germany and surrounding countries as early as the 13th century, but the first Christmas market themed around Christ and held to mark Advent was likely the Striezelmarkt in Dresden in 1434. In the centuries since, countries all over the world have adopted the tradition.
Most Christkindlmarkts open around the beginning of Advent and are a staple of the Christmas season, with stalls offering Nativity scenes, Christmas decorations and gifts, local food, and seasonal treats. You can find unique gifts and inspiration at these markets, along with an extra helping of Christmas cheer.
Recently, a historic park in our area has started holding a Christkindlmarkt with local artists and vendors. It was great to visit with a group of young people and get a taste of something I’ve wanted to do since I heard Rick Steves rhapsodize about it years ago. We ate bratwurst and stroopwafels, bought new Christmas decorations, and enjoyed the spirit of giving and unseasonably warm weather. We’d highly recommend you try it for yourself.
Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:
Twelve Days of Imported Christmas
- The First Day: Christmas-Stuffed Turkey Piñata and Other Season-Starting Traditions
- The Second Day: Mari Lwyd—Wales’ Rhyming Horse Skull Puppet
- The Third Day: Christingle—England’s Citrus Candlestick
- The Fourth Day: Spanish Christmas Tapas
- The Fifth Day: Jólakötturinn—The Icelandic Christmas Cat
- The Sixth Day: Churchkhela—Georgia’s Christmas Candle Treat
- The Seventh Day: Christkindlmarkt—Germany’s Christmas Markets