Germany's Christmas Museum in Rothenburg is a tourist attraction any time of the year.
If you enjoy the Christmas season and like the charm of a medieval German town, then the German Christmas Museum in Rothenburg is a place you should visit.
The Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the Germany's premier tourist attractions. Walking through the small town with its cobbled streets and its many old houses, visitors feel like they're stepping back in time.
The town is full of tourists in summer. All the cafes and restaurants put tables out and you can enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee right on the historic "Marktplatz".
But the best time to see Rothenburg might very well be the Christmas season. That's when this medieval town develops a special atmosphere that makes you feel like you're in the midst of a fairy tale.
Little wonder, then, that Rothenburg is also home to Germany's Christmas Museum. In 1981, Harald Wohlfahrt first started thinking about opening a Christmas museum in his home town. He wanted to show how Christmas was celebrated in times gone by.
The museum is located in a 17th century half-timbered housed just around the corner from Rothenburg's town hall or "Rathaus". To enter it, visitors have to climb a narrow light-blue staircase. These steps end at the "heavenly gates", which lead into the world of Christmas.
On display at the museum are first and foremost old Christmas decorations from Germany. In addition, visitors can find out about the history of this holiday, special Christmas traditions, foods and customs.
The oldest article on display at the museum dates back to the 16th century. It's a wooden nutcracker made in 1560.
The first record of a decorated Christmas tree dates back to the year 1419. In those days, the trees were decorated with food and candy which the children were allowed to eat after the holidays. Decorations included apples, nuts, dates and cookies.
Candles were extremely expensive in those days, so the only ones who might have had lights on their trees would have been the families of noblemen.
Nevertheless, Christmas trees with colorful lights have since then come to symbolize the holiday for many people. And the German Christmas Museum in Rothenburg shows how that tradition got started.