Christmas markets spring to life in Germany
It?s that most wonderful time of the year again. In central squares in towns and cities across Europe the sweet steam of Gl?hwein and hot cider mingles with the smell of fresh cut pine, cinnamon and gingerbread.
The clutter of Christmas Markets with their wooden stalls and streets scattered with hay offer a version of Christmas that?s a perfect antidote to the grim chronicles of Black Friday where the happy throngs have morphed into angry mobs. Christmas markets in Europe bring out the best in Christmas.
People stand in the cold sipping wine and talking as if it weren?t cold at all. After a few hours it becomes hard to remember that Christmas was once a Middle Eastern story.
Over the years Europe has made the Nativity into a story of its own by dressing it up in its own rich folk traditions. No one knows the actual birth date of Jesus, but Dec. 25 was chosen in the fourth?century by Pope Julius I in order to create a celebration of the birth of Jesus and to vitalize it with the traditional Dec. 25?celebration of the Roman Saturnalia.
Pre-Christian Germans celebrated a midwinter festival they called the Yule. The authentic feel of a German Christmas Market is rooted in the fact that the celebration reaches deep into the Pagan celebrations.
Once Christmas Day was established it wasn?t long before the season of Advent began to enthrall Europe. Christmas markets, the chief symbol of European Advent are believed to have begun in Dresden whose Striezel Market dates back to 1434.
While Christmas Markets have taken root all over the world, Germany is still their home. About 150 German towns and cities have Christmas Markets. Berlin alone has 60.
The wooden stalls used in the markets suggest the manger where the Holy Family received the three Eastern Kings bearing spices and incense.
Those spices are suggested in the aromatic warmth of allspice, cinnamon and cloves that wafts out of vats of steaming gl?hwein, the mulled wine that comes out at Advent.
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