Visiting Bavaria – one of the oldest states in Southern Germany during the summer months five years ago, (including travelling through the beautiful Black Forest to Nuremberg and Munich), it was a delight to be invited back to Nuremberg to see the famous Christmas Market.
Nuremberg, once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and the preferred residence of German kings who kept their crown jewels here, is situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. During World War II on 2 January 1945 it was bombed very heavily, with 6000 people loosing their lives and the city, reduced to rubble. Almost all of the city’s buildings were painstakingly reconstructed using the original stones. The castles and churches in particular, have been restored to their former glory.
Nuremberg holds many festivals and fairs. It is a city steeped in history, with many bridges, including the unchanged Renaissance bridge Fleischbrucke, has three castles – the Imperial Castle, the Burgraves Castle, and the Free Reich’s Buildings – which tower over the city, the Gothinc Shonner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain), which was erected in 1385 but was replaced with a replica and the original is now in Germanisches National Museum, The Hospital of the Holy Spirit which was founded in 1332, and is one of the largest hospitals of the Middle Ages, and of course the Hauptmarkt – which provides a picturesque setting for the famous Christmas Market. There is documentary evidence of the existence of the market dating back to 1620.
Nuremberg’s Christmas Market fills the main market area with over 200 stalls, and draws in a huge 2 million visitors each year, opens with a Christmas Angel. She is dressed in a golden robe, reads a five verse prologue:
“You men and women, who once yourselves were children,
You little ones, life’s journey just beginning,
Each and all, who troubled tomorrow, are full of cheer today,
Pray listen to what Christ Child has come to say!
Every year, four weeks before the time,
To decorate the Christmas tree, to celebrate the season,
Appears upon this square, your forebears knew it too,
What you here see, called Christkindlesmarkt by you,
This little town within the town, of wood and cloth made,
Whose short-lived splendor so fleeting seems to be,
And yet it is eternal. My market shall forever young remain.
As long as Nuremberg stands, and the memory of that market’s fame.
For Nuremberg is both old and young at once,
The many features of its countenance beyond all count.
Here this noble square. But now adjoining it,
The tall buildings of today, the factories of the modern world
The new city of so much green. And yet, you men and women true
It will remain forever the Nuremberg that is you.
Now as the old year ends there comes the day,
When wishes can be made and presents given,
When the market shines forth far and wide,
With decorations, and crystal balls, and blessed Christmastide
This you may not forget, you men and women, heed my word,
He who has all needs nothing more,
There are the children of this world and poor,
Who know the best what giving’s for.
You men and women, who once yourselves were children,
Be them again today, happy as children be,
And now the Christ Child to its market calls,
And all who come are truly welcome.”
She makes two appearances each week, and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time!
Christkind is chosen every two years. She must fulfill the following criteria:
– She must be born in Nuremberg or have lived here for a long time.
– She must be at least 160 centimeters tall and not be afraid of heights.
– She must be willing to work in any weather.
– She must be at least 16 years old, but no older than 19.
Next, from the many applicants, twelve are selected and their photographs are published in the local newspaper and on the internet. Readers then select their favourite.
The six applicants who receive the most votes are invited for interview – which includes a test of their knowledge of Nuremberg (in front of a jury), who then select the Christkind. The jury consists of representatives of the media, of the Nuremberg State Theatre, the Market Department, Press and Information Department, and the Nuremberg Convention and Tourist Office, together with the Christkind from the previous year! The lucky winner then serves for the two following years.
Walking from the main station towards the Hauptmarkt, there was certainly a sense of expectancy and excitement. It was nearly Christmas… just 7 days to go. The air filled with aromas enticing you to view, taste, feel, and buy.
Nuremberg Christmas Market (also known as the ‘Little Town from Wood and Cloth’) is packed full with Christmas goodies! From Prune Men, yes really – small figurines made from dried fruit for sale known as Zwetschgenmännle, toys, candles, Christmas tree ornaments, candied toasted almonds called Gebrannte Mandeln, gingerbread known as Lebkuchen (yum!) fruitcake, (yum!) bratwurst (yum!) as well as utterly delicious mulled wine and rum punch (hic!)
To one side of the Market Square is Germany’s oldest bookstore – Korn & Berg. It was opened 1531 by Johann Ott. Upon entering, it is impossible not to look up! What a marvel it is to find painted on the ceilings two works by Dürer. Dürer (who was one of 18 children) devoted large amounts of time living and painting in Nuremberg during the 1500’s. His art showed the influence of the mathematical theory of proportion, which he spent many hours studying. Particular thanks must go to manager Gerhard Mayer, who showed me the most interesting book about Dürer and his art.
Adjoining the Hauptmark there’s the Kinderweihnacht, or Children’s Christmas Market, in Hans Sachs Platz, where tiny tots can take a ride on the merry-go-round or take a ride on a delightful little steam train.
Nuremberg, full of history, full of festivity. Thank you! Your Christmas Market is fabulous!
I’m off to Regensburg artisanal Christmas Market held at The Palace next….