Next week, AmaWaterways and I will team up on a live chat about how you can experience Europe's Christmas markets via a magical river cruise. These festive trips weave you on a journey through the winter wonderland on the banks of the Rhine and Danube Rivers.
If you have been fortunate to visit Europe in the lead-up to Christmas before, you will know how enchanting a time this is across the continent. And these festive Christmas markets that add a special type of celebration to the season of goodwill.
A brief history of the European Christmas markets
The Christmas Markets roots are now a modern-day tradition trace as far back as the middle ages. A type of advent market was held for the first time in Vienna in 1298, the Krippenmarkt. However, the open-air fairs that we now know and love came out of Germany.
The first-ever Christmas market - Christkindlmarkt - was held in the German hilltop town of Bautzen in 1384. Initially, these markets only sold meat produce. But, they evolved over time to sell a wider variety of seasonal goods, while singing and dancing were introduced.
Christkindlmarkt culture boomed in the 16th-century after the religious reformer Martin Luther suggested that children receive their presents from the fairy-like ‘Christkindl.’ Besides Germany, this angelic ‘gift-giver’ appears throughout countries in western and eastern Europe.
Soon, the trend caught on, and now you can find Christmas markets all over continental Europe. However, Germany is still the pride and joy of the great tradition with the largest and most famous taking place in Nuremberg. This opens with a flourish each year with a choir and a reading from the elected Christkindl - usually a blonde-haired local girl.
What can you buy at a Christmas Market?
Wooden huts selling delicious yuletide treats and handmade arts and crafts are the backbone of any European Christmas Market!
Local artisans and tradesmen sell their wares, which are typically very traditional in style. Imagine the likes of wooden toys, knitted winter woollies, handcrafted jewelry - it’s souvenir-galore. The Christmas Markets are also a terrific opportunity to refresh your Christmas tree with some boutique decorations.
When it comes to the food, the market stalls will have their own regional twist based on which country or city you are in. Some of the typical foodstuffs that you can graze on while wandering around the markets along the Rhine and Danube are:
When shopping at a Christmas market, you should always look closely at the products before handing over your cash. While the lion share of items are authentic, it is not uncommon for a few imported and factory-produced pieces to slip their way in!
Why are festive markets so popular?
Christmas markets are practically an institution across many European cities these days. What’s not to love about those delectable holiday treats and a kaleidoscope of gift ideas? The cozy, cheerful atmosphere is perfect for families, couples, and friends alike. Plus - cradling a steaming spiced drink is undoubtedly the best way to keep warm when temperatures plummet.
To hear more about why Christmas markets are so intriguing to Europeans and international travelers alike, then do join us on Thursday. We will unwrap all you would like to know about taking a holiday river cruise, and you will have plenty of chances to ask us any questions. Don’t forget to brew yourself a mulled wine to sip during the talk!
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