German Christmas Market Experience
Welcome to your German Christmas Market experience!
The Christmas markets in Europe are a full sensory experience. Many begin in November and carry on throughout the holiday season taking over public city squares. Uniform wooden huts offer a wide variety of handcrafted goods, ornaments, and warm delicacies––some that are uniquely specific to a city or region.
It is a place to socialize, with many locals gathering after work and on weekends. The atmosphere is festive with a large decorated tree and an abundance of twinkling lights. The smell of candied nuts and mulled wine fills the air. It can be quite chilly during this time of year, and you may find yourself returning more than once to the drink stand for another beverage to keep you warm throughout the evening.
I invite you to play the following video to take in the sights and sounds of the market as you taste your way through the treats included in your bundle and read through the experience below for a full sensory immersion. I would recommend playing it on a second device from the one you are reading this on, or letting it stream while you read through. Check back every now and then to see where you wander to next at the market.
The items chosen for this bundle represent the warmth that is found at the market and are a way to celebrate from the comfort of your own home. The first Christmas markets date back to Germany as early as the 1300s with the first official market taking place in Dresden. Today, Germany hosts thousands of markets (Berlin alone has 80!) with multiple variations taking place throughout Europe and around the world.
Glühwein | Mulled Wine
First, and perhaps most importantly, you have all of the ingredients to bring a bottle of red wine to life with the simple addition of your sugar & spice mix. Follow the recipe card to be guided through the process and you will soon have a full batch of glühwein to comfort you throughout the rest of your evening.
There are often multiple stalls serving up glühwein to keep revelers warm as they stroll and explore the many stalls of the market. Since the markets typically begin in November and continue up until Christmas, glühwein is the perfect beverage to keep you warm throughout your visit. Some have been known to add a shot of brandy or rum for a little something extra.
Note: We do think these spices would also make for a lovely warm apple cider if you're looking for a non-alcoholic option!
A tradition that many have come to embrace is collecting a commemorative mug from every market and year attended. These mugs are typically marked with the city and year in which the market takes place. We decided to switch it up a little bit and include a set of vintage mugs that you can turn to every year for a bit of festivity beyond the Christmas season.
Zotter Drinking Chocolate
If you're looking to continue filling your mugs with warmth, the drinking chocolate bars will transport you to the Zotter chocolate factory in Austria. Although the Christmas markets may have had their start in Germany, there are wonderful festive markets to explore across Europe as well. The Austrian markets are just as lovely and hot chocolate is another beverage you will likely encounter.
Zotter Schokolade runs a full chocolate tasting experience at their factory nestled in the hills of Southern Austria. Despite the warnings, it is a place where you will learn that it is in fact possible to consume too much chocolate. One stop on the tour involves the world's smallest cable car that runs throughout the room, each compartment carrying one single drinking chocolate bar. Visitors can select their drinking chocolate of choice and bring it up to the milk bar where they are served a hot and frothy glass of milk to dissolve their chocolate into.
Gebrannte Mandeln | Candied Nuts
If you have ever passed by a stand filled with candied nuts, you'll know it's incredibly difficult to resist the sweet aroma that fills the air as they are prepared. Typically packed in a paper cone, it is the perfect snack to hold on to as you wander through the market.
Pro tip: buy one cone to snack on and a second cone to eat at home.
One of the many enjoyable features of the market are the ornaments. It is an opportunity to find unique decorations for your tree, with some markets having specific ornaments that can only be found in particular towns. For this reason, every bundle has received a different ornament as if you found it yourself on a visit to a Christmas market.
We have also included chocolate ornaments as an ode to my own family's Christmas traditions. Every year, my mom will pick up chocolate ornaments for our tree from Brent Park Store –– or "The German Store" as we like to call it because of their assortment of German grocery items. My grandparents immigrated to Thunder Bay (or rather Fort William) from Germany and Switzerland in the 40s and 50s with few resources to be able to return often. Being able to indulge in German treats every Christmas has always been a way for our family to stay connected to the flavours and products we enjoy. And who doesn't like a little nostalgia to see them through the season?
Is it truly Christmas without the cookies? We asked The Sweet North to prepare an assortment of German cookies for you to indulge in. Your box of treats includes a variety of cookies that are often made during the holidays in Germany and several other European countries.
Lebkuchen is one of our favourites. It is a form of honey cake that dates back to the 13th century in Nürnberg, Germany when it used to be prepared by monks. Multiple variations of the cookie exist throughout Germany, but the base recipe tends to include honey, spices and nuts. It is similar to gingerbread, but we would argue that it is much better.
Pfeffernüsse is similar to lebkuchen in that it is a spiced cookie, but they are instead rolled into balls and coated in icing sugar. "Pfeffer" means pepper and "Nuss" means nut, which some believe may be a reference to their bite-sized shape seeing as the recipe does not call for nuts.
Vanillekipferl are crescent shaped moons that originate in Austria but are common throughout Europe. They are traditionally made with walnuts but can be made using other nuts as well. They are not the easiest cookie to make and require skilled hands to bake a crescent that doesn't break.
These cookies have been baked fresh for you to enjoy for your bundle experience. They are best consumed within 3 days.
Thank you for joining us on this sensory experience of the tastes and stories connected to the many treats found throughout the stalls of a German Christmas market. Stay safe and happy holidays!