There are famous Christmas markets aplenty in Germany. First documented in 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is definitely one of the oldest — and rightfully renowned as one of the country’s most beautiful Christmas markets. Catch it now, it’s only open until December 24!
There is so much to see, do, taste and buy from the near-endless, lovingly decorated Striezelmark stalls where traditional goods and foods of the Dresden region are sold.
You’ll stroll past booths displaying handcrafted wooden ornaments and toys from the nearby Erzgebirge mountains, lace from the centuries-old town of Plauen, illuminated paper folding stars from the Erzgebirge hamlet of Annaberg, and last but far from least, the famous Dresden Stollen, the traditional spiced Christmas cake chock full of rum-soaked raisins, citrus peels, and almonds. There is also no end to food stalls spilling over with all the hearty foods, sweets, baked apples and mulled wine the holiday heart could possibly desire. Add Christmas carols and the ubiquitous scent of cinnamon and spice – it all combines for the special Christmas market feeling that the Dresden Striezelmarkt has enchanted locals and visitors alike for centuries.
There is nothing to compare with the jolly mood you get late of an afternoon as twilight descends while wandering through the thronged aisles past wonderfully decorated booths, stopping to browse here and maybe buying a little something there, then listening to the musical offering of a band of musicians. The merchants all have a practiced sense of humor and do their hawking and bargaining jovially and lots of laughter, and so it goes as you let yourself be pulled along merrily, bemused and dazzled at the same time by it all.
You could say that the Dresden Striezelmarkt is all about cheerful warmth even when it’s cold outside. It gets its name from the Middle High German word “striezel” meaning “stollen”. As you might expect, stollen has a key role to play in celebrations by the city in the days leading up to Christmas. For example, every year hundreds of spectators are treated in great style to the Stollenfest, a public celebration centered on a giant stollen carried on a horse-drawn wagon, a colorful parade and the Stollen Girl, the queen of the Stollenfest. The Striezelmarkt opening celebration, which took place on November 26 this year, is another mega community event celebrated in the world-famous restored Frauenkirche and then on the Altmarkt in front of the church by the city’s mayor and dignitaries. The mayor cuts a slice off that giant stollen, the market is suddenly ablaze with lights and the Striezelmarkt is open for all to enjoy. The event features the world’s largest wooden candle pyramid and a giant traditional Schwibbogen, a ceremonial arch-shaped candle holder like the smaller ones that Dresdners put in their windows during the Advent season, Both giants have made it into the Guinness Book of Records!
Here is where I discovered ten reasons why the Striezelmarkt is thought to be Germany’s most beautiful Christmas market (in German, I’m afraid).
Although it is the most famous of them all, the Striezelmarkt has company in the form of a few different sized Christmas markets. The one in the Stallhof (a large courtyard in the Residenzschloss, the ducal palace in the heart of Dresden) for example, has a medieval theme, since this is where they put on jousts in the Middle Ages. And the Frauenkirche church not far away every year is surrounded by a flock of handicraft booths.
I, too, did not return home empty-handed. My Christmas tree, besides being graced by my grandfather’s Christmas decorations, will be even more gorgeous with the Plauen lace I purchased; it already has an Annaberg folding star hanging on it. And to bring our Christmas eve dinner to a glorious close, I plan to serve my guests homemade Eierschecke, that Dresden cream cheese and custard tart speciality.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Many thanks for the invitation and arrangements to Oliver Sefrin, head of press and public relations for Germany Travel and Markus Veit, associate for national and international markets, as well as Christoph Münch, manager for international marketing, press and public relations with Dresden Marketing.