The Christkindl Markt

  The smell of Glühwein and roasted almonds, the jostling of merry people, candlelight and snow. There is nothing quite as charming and romantic as a Christkindlmarkt to usher in the Advent season. Winter is upon us and with it the twinkling, cheerful sounds and smells unique to Christmas.

   These markets which are also known as Advent markets of Christmas markets are common throughout central Europe. They date back to the late middle ages and were originally a source of rare and delightful treasures brought in to cold and mountainous regions in time for Christmas. Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and other sweets, nuts, carved toys, and meat were among the original offerings. These, with the exception of meat, still play a primary role in each market. Current 'traditional' offerings also include honey and beeswax candles, woolen items such as slippers or gloves, frankincense, nativity set figures, and Christmas decorations.

 All things handmade have a place in a Christmas market as they make wonderful small gifts. Many artisans enjoy their most profitable season by renting stands and braving fierce weather conditions for the month leading up to Christmas.

   As the opening of the market often falls just before the first advent Sunday there is also often an offering of advent wreaths. These will be blessed on the first advent Saturday, and the first candle lit on the first Sunday. I will do a post on advent wreaths next weekend, so for now, if you don't have one, you still have a week to get yours. (Which I need to do, I still don't have mine).

Yesterday The Christkindlmarkt opened here in Graz. The stands have been being set up over the last week or so and excitement has been mounting. The opening is especially late this year as Advent is later than usual, resulting in about half a week less time than we are accustomed to having. Everyone had the opportunity to really enjoy Autumn and now, suddenly, Christmas is upon us. Last night the main square was filled and even I, who had to run into town to grab something last minute had my first Glühwein of the season. It was time.

  Today the Christmas markets are a popular place to go have a drink and meet friends in the evening. In a town our size, you will meet just about everyone you know in the course of Advent. On the 24th many people will go for the last time into town to enjoy a last drink and get any last minute item or ingredient still missing for their Christmas celebrations.


    In addition to the enjoyment of the residents of the city where they are held, the markets draw thousands of tourists every year. Some come from other countries while others come from the surrounding towns, hitting all of the markets they can during the Advent season. We used to do that until we had a family. Now it is less relaxing to try to stand in the midst of the milieu drinking a  Glühwein, so we mainly frequent our own, at the slower, more relaxed, family-friendly times.

   It seems that Christmas markets may have fallen out of favor over the past generation. My husband says that as a child he doesn't remember there being any markets in his town. It was in the early nineties that he remembers them beginning to reappear. This raises a question in my mind as to whether their absence had something to do with a cultural distancing toward traditional behavior and values in the 70s and 80s. It seems to me that many of the things that he, his friends and siblings didn't care for as children have come full circle and are 'in' again. Maybe Christmas markets are among them. Or maybe they just weren't as prevalent in smaller towns as they are today.

What do you think? Do you think the revival of Christmas and Advent markets are linked to the reinvention of the traditional in central European societies? Or is it a socioeconomic question?
 Do you have advent markets where you live? If not have you been to one? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments.

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