When I arrived in Germany in December 2007, I quickly discovered the magical atmosphere of Munich’s Christmas markets. One word I saw and heard everywhere was ‘Glühwein’, which my dictionary told me was ‘mulled wine’. Although I’d heard the name before, I had absolutely no idea what mulled wine actually was.
In the German-speaking world, drinking a warm mug of Glühwein, made from wine and spices, with friends or colleagues at a Christmas market is part of the traditional build-up to Christmas.
Many German and Austrian towns and cities have had Christmas markets since the 14th century. Open-air stalls sell a wide variety of traditional Christmas gifts – from Christmas tree decorations to gingerbread – but it’s the warm food and drink that’s the biggest attraction.
In 1997, the city of Frankfurt thought it would be a great business idea to bring ‘German Christmas markets’ to big British cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. They became really popular and today you’ll find them all over the UK. You’ll also find many Germans working there. Even the word ‘glühwein’ (which you can find in many English dictionaries) is becoming well-known!
Traditional Christmas markets have become one of the great German cultural exports. I remember taking my parents to the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz when they visited me one December. “It’s just like the one we have at home!”, they said!
Which is your favourite Christmas market?