The Tradition of the European Christmas Market

By Tom Mensik


The concept of the Christmas Market is deeply ingrained in European culture. With Georgetown’s 55th Annual Christmas Market coming up for the weekends of December 5th,6th, 12th, and 13th, how about a history of traditional European Christmas Markets.

Christmas Markets in Europe date back to the Middle Ages. They began to originate in the Germanic regions of Europe and parts of the Holy Roman Empire. While Georgetown’s is only two weekends, these festivals last almost four weeks to celebrate the Advent. One of the earliest recorded winter festivals can be traced back to Vienna’s “December Market” in 1294. Dresden, Frankfurt, Augsburg, and Bautzen all have records of winter markets dating back to the late 1300’s. As German immigrants began trickling into the United States, they brought the tradition of the markets with them.

Much like today, these markets took place in public squares. Arguably, the most important theme of early Christmas markets was the celebration of the beginning of the Advent. The Advent is the celebration of the anticipation of the birth of Jesus. These early markets would start the festivities with a celebration of the “Christ Child”. Dancing and singing would take place, as well as religious ceremonies and parades.


Modern European Christmas Markets are massive compared to their Middle Ages counterparts. Today there are over 70 in Germany alone. Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens hosts one of the largest celebrations in the world. During the event, visitors can walk among 1,600 vendors throughout the festival. According to several travel sites one of the top destinations for Christmas Markets is in Strasbourg. Called “Christkindelsmarik”, this festival dates back to 1570.  Traditionally, European Markets last from the last week in November up until the New Years Holiday.  These are also popular destinations for tourists, as several cruise lines and tour companies offer European Christmas packages.

Domestically, Christmas markets are popular all over the United States.  in Georgetown, Colorado, the festival is modeled after Swedish festivals.  It even features a processional of St. Lucia singers.  In fact, the Georgetown Christmas  is currently ranked #4 on USA Today’s list of top Christmas Markets.  You can vote for Georgetown using the link below.  Help us get to #1.  We hope to see you on December 5th, 6th, 12th, and 13th.





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