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Culture

Ginger and Spice and All Things Nice

If you’re jaded by the commercialisation taking over the holiday season a German Christmas market is just the place to head for –tradition mingles here with the scent of baked cookies and warm mulled wine.

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All lit up: a Christmas market by night in Germany

Even before the first snowflake falls, the air fills up with the aroma of spicy gingerbread cookies called Lebkuchen and Glühwein or warm mulled wine: the traditional German Christmas market can’t be far away.

Nothing else heralds the season of good cheer in Germany like the springing up of Christmas markets in the last week of November, not even good old Santa or "Niklaus" as he’s called in Germany. And though there are those who might argue that the Christmas markets in Germany are turning increasingly commercial, nothing beats the festive atmosphere and good cheer at these markets.

A step back in time

Visiting a Christmas market in Germany is like stepping into the pages of a medieval Christmas picture book with all the frills and quaintness attached.

Come November and the market places in German cities and towns resound with the sound of hammering and sawing as carpenters put up timber cabins.

With the beginning of Advent, these are decorated with lanterns and branches of fir. They sell all kinds of traditional Christmas merchandise and gifts such as wood carvings, marionettes, candles, lambskin shoes, Christmas trees.

Tradtional wooden handicrafts and embellishments

You can find toys and Christmas decorations such as nutcrackers, and hand-blown ornaments. Little figurines wearing handmade clothing called Zwetschgenmännlein (prune people) are popular. They're made of dried prunes and nuts threaded on wire. They come in a variety of characters: men, women, hunters, chimney sweeps and santas, to name a few.

Another best-selling item is the Rauschgoldengel or gold foil angels. These come from the most famous Christmas market in the city of Nuremberg which has a history of more than 400 years. Dressed in stiff, accordion-pleated foil dresses, the angels serve as tree top ornaments and are mounted on top of the Christmas tree in place of a star.

Mouth-watering goodies

There’s no arguing that the goodies at the Christmas markets are a hot draw. Hot chestnuts, baked apples, grilled sausages, roasted almonds, spicy gingerbread and marzipan cookies...just the aroma of these wafting on the air is enough to make you hurriedly buy your Christmas tree angels and follow your nose and watering mouth.

Glühwein: the feel-good drink

The culmination of an authentic German Christmas market visit is to wash down the above with Glühwein or warm mulled wine. It’s a spiced up beverage made of clove, cinnamon, lemon peel and red wine.

It’s the ideal winter drink. The dark red liquid spreads a warmth in your stomach and goes straight to your head, getting you in the right Christmas mood in the bargain. Little wonder then that spirits are high and bubbly at Christmas markets.

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