Travelers who plan quickly still have time to experience the 2010 European Christmas markets. Most of the markets open in late Nov. or early Dec. and remain open through Christmas, though some are of shorter duration. The hardest decision is which one(s) of the wondrous holiday markets to choose.
Where to Find European Christmas Markets
Nuremburg, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Copenhagen are home to some of the most celebrated European Christmas markets, but there are hundreds of others- more than 90 in Germany alone- scattered across the continent. Stars and Stripes recently published an extensive list of Christmas markets in Europe for service members stationed abroad. Christmasmarkets.com also published the 2010 dates and locations of the larger Christmas markets with descriptions of the attractions surrounding them.
What Christmas Markets Offer
Europe’s Christmas markets sell an amazing array of the magnificent, whimsical, practical, and edible. While Christmas ornaments are plentiful, the markets sell much more than decorations. Handmade gifts crafted from wood, wool, paper, glass, ceramic, wax and metal are common. The markets pack centuries of tradition into a single location, allowing visitors to choose decorations and gifts; experience holiday light shows, music and dance; taste traditional treats liked mulled wines, roasted chestnuts, gingerbread, pastries, and sausages; and share in traditions like greeting Father Christmas, awaiting the unveiling of the hidden treasures in the advent calendar, and hearing the message of the Christmas angel.
Christmas Market Favorites
The Christmas pyramid is a the precursor of the Christmas tree. The small wooden structure supports a platform containing wooden figurines, topped by a propeller. Rising heat from candles placed below the platform turns the propeller, moving the platform and the figurines. Christmas pyramids are varied in size, style, and theme.
Nutcrackers are a Christmas tradition dating back 300 years. The nutcracker is a symbolic protector, and often takes the form of soldiers and kings. However, they are not limited to those traditional forms. The traditional fir carving might just as easily take the form of a literary character like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland or Humpty Dumpty or borrow its image from a real person such as Pope Benedict XVI or President Roosevelt.
Räuchermännchen are decorative incense burners reminiscent of the gift of frankincense one of the Wise Man is said to have offered to the baby Jesus.
Music boxes and nativity sets are also popular items at the Christmas markets.
Finding More Information about Famous Christmas Markets
Official tourist agency websites are a valuable source of information on Christmas markets. Reading about the Nuremburg, Munich, Copenhagen, Vienna, Budapest and Prague markets will give you a solid basis for comparing the different European Christmas markets.