Germany celebrates the Christmas season with an appealing sense of old world charm. Towns all over the country open their own individual Christmas markets in the shadow of their central churches for about a month leading up to Christmas. In Mainz, the Christmas market has been open since November 28 (coincidentally the same day as the American Thanksgiving holiday and this year’s first night of Hanukkah). Wiesbaden’s market opened a few days earlier. Slightly different in their layout, the Mainz market flows through a few connected town squares while Wiesbaden’s market has a narrower and more roundabout route confined by a maze of metal gates.
Despite their differences, it’s what in the markets that count: The butcher, the baker, the beeswax candlestick maker, and more. Large wooden shed-like buildings offer handcrafted woodwork, glasswork, leather goods, Christmas ornaments, bake ware, and so on. And the food. As you walk through the market you pass through smells of gingerbread, chocolate, candied nuts, roasted chestnuts, bratwurst and currywurst, potato pancakes, and (perhaps most importantly) a hot mulled wine called Glühwein. Huge wooden barrels with long benches and a table inside serve as seating for at least nine, in my experience. You can also stand at a tall table made from a log cut in half.
On weekends in particular, the markets are jam packed. People shuffle along shoulder to shoulder and cram in to buy crafts and food. My favorite times to visit the markets are weekday afternoons and evenings when the crowds are a little lighter. Time is running out for the markets but I hope to visit a few more before next week. Merry Christmas/Frohe Weihnachten!