Christmas Star
at the Chriskindlmarkt store in Rothenberg ob der Taube

Christmas Markets

An age-old tradition, Christmas Markets in Germany are made up of stalls arranged in a square to display and sell traditional (and not so traditional) Christmas trinkets.  Akin to an art and craft market, most of the stall vendors are from the countryside where their wares have little opportunity to be displayed to a large crowd.

As we have had a mild winter this year (2006/2007), there was little sign of the slush, created from melted snow being trampled on by literally thousands of happy feet.  Therefore, wandering in between the crowd at the Christmas Markets has been quite a pleasurable experience.

We had a great choice of Christmas Markets (called Weihnachtsmarkt or better known as the Chriskindlmarkt) this year, with many in the Munich environs, we visited the markets in Marienplatz (Marine square, right in the middle of the city) and RIndermarkt; a short walk from Marienplatz, Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) at the English Gardens and several markets outside of Munich in Regensburg, Rothernberg and lastly Nuremberg, this being the largest Christmas Market setting in the world.  There's even a gay Christamas Market here in Munich... interesting.

We did go to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic between Christmas and New Year period to discover that the Christmas market was still in operation, right in the middle of the old town square !  The had a wonderfully large Christmas tree and another one decorated in blue.
 

 


We found that the most common souvenir at the Chriskindlmarkt is the glühwein (wine made from berries) served in a souvenir cup.  This 200ml cup shaped like a normal mug or a boot, glazed with the event of that year (eg:"Chriskindlmarkt Nuremberg 2006" as an example).  The glühwein is made from berries and can be served non-alcoholic if requested and more often than not, served hot!

To go with the hot glühwein is all sorts of sausages (wurst) and bread and the traditional gingerbread or lebkuchen. Lebkuchen are a traditional German Christmas cookies form of gingerbread, ranging in taste from spicy to sweet and come in a variety of shapes with round being the most common. The ingredients usually include honey, spices and nuts, almonds or candied fruit. Nuremberg gingerbread of the best quality is called Elisenlebkuchen.  In any case, I understood that the Nuremberg lebkuchen can be ordered over the internet you fancy some.

It was commonplace to see hundreds of people hanging around makeshift tables (made out of barrels), talking, sipping hot wine and generally enjoying each others' company.
 


Xmas decorative balls
Plentiful at the Christmas Markets in all sizes, colours and decirations

 


Lebkuchen
This one was manufactured in front of our eyes.  The hand made ones taste better.


Grandma Räuchermänner
Light up an incense inside her and the smoke is seen coming out of her mouth.


Räuchermänner made from clay. This one has smoke coming out of his ears or the computer monitor.  Cool!


Something new we found is the Raeuchermaenner, the traditional German Smoker.  Available in all sorts of shapes and sizes, this wooden (although we also have one made from earthenware) figurine is hollow inside.  You are able to dismantle this figurine to reveal a incense burner platform inside, where a small piece of incense in the shape of a cone can be inserted and lit before the figurine is put together again.  The smoke and aroma from the burning incense escapes from an Orpheus one the face or head of the figurine.
 
About German Smokers, Smoking Men or Erzgebirge Smokers:

German Smokers, or smoking men, and the smell of incense cones belong to the Erzgebirgian Christmas just like the German nutcracker. An important component in the development for the German Smokers was the use of Frankincense (Weihrauch) in the Christmas tradition/ Frankincense was next to gold and Myrrh one of the three presents the three holy kings brought to the Baby Jesus.It is estimated that the production of smoking cones, now used in German Smokers, started around 1750 in the village of Crottendorf in the Erzgebirge. The Heilig-Ohmd-Lied accounts of the usage of smoking cones around 1830, although the cones were not yet placed inside of a figurine but burned on a small tray.

Throughout the nineteenth century, public smoking was a widespread habit that made the sight of a man with a pipe in his mouth a common one. This is believed to have been the inspiration for the creation of the first German smoker.

The origins of German Smokers believed to date back to 1856/57 in Heidelberg - which today is a part of the town of Seiffen. The German Smokers, or smoking men, were made the same way as the nutcrackers, although German Smokers consists of two parts that are put on top of each other. On the lower part the smoking cone is placed on a little tin circle, the upper part works as the smoking kettle.Unlike the nutcrackers, that traditionally represent officers and other officials, the German craftsmen chose everyday people as models for their German smokers. Favorites themes for German Smokers are miners, shepherds, chimney sweepers and other traditional German occupations
 

 

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