By Kathy Kovach
|Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt in front of Frauenkirche (church)
Who doesn’t love a good craft bazaar, especially at Christmas? Holiday music piping through the booths, cinnamon and vanilla wafting from the cookie table, the glittering shiny baubles and curios enticing the patron to draw near. And the colors!
wonder where this tradition started?
keep wondering, because no one knows.
possible this marketing opportunity first became popular as early as 1530.
However, it’s unclear whether sellers gathered specifically for Christmas or
simply for a winter bazaar to hock their crafts and wares. The first real proof
of a true holiday event showed up in writing in the year 1628. It was found at
the bottom of an oval 19-centimeter-long spruce bentwood box decorated with
flowers. The inscription read, “Sent to Regina Susanna Harßdörfferin by Miss
Susanna Eleonora Erbsin (or Elbsin) on the occasion of the Christmas Market of
1628”. The box now resides at Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
The trinket was bought in Nuremberg, Germany—the second largest city in Bavaria after Munich—which is said to be the home of the first Christkindlesmarkt, or Christmas Market.
is the Christkind?
Protestant reformer Martin Luther is the one who introduced the Christkind (or
Christkindl) as the giver of gifts in 1545. Previously, that title went to the
benevolent Saint Nicholas who brought gifts to children on December 6th. Martin
Luther was determined to remove the Catholic reference of a saint to focus on
the Christ. Hence, in his own household, the Christ Child began bringing
presents on December 25th. Lutherans adopted the
practice as did many German Catholics. The tradition still holds for many countries
The Christ Child refers to Jesus from ages birth to twelve. Tradition holds that a small, angelic-like being was the Christkind who brought gifts to children in their homes. They never witnessed this, but a small bell would ring somewhere in the house to indicate His leaving. They would then run to the tree to see what they received.
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt became the standard kickoff to the holiday season,
much like our Black Friday sales. By 1737, the number of craftsmen grew to 140,
all from Nuremberg.
we love fairs and festivals, often stocking up on unique gifts for family and
friends, the German market went deeper. As of 1933, the Christkind set the tone
before anyone could drop a pfennig (penny). An actress had been hired
and, dressed as the Christkind Angel—the symbol of the Spirit of Christmas—she
read a prologue from the church balcony welcoming everyone into a season of
hope and good will toward men. Bells rang, a children’s choir sang, and the
Christkindlesmarkt became the established kickoff to the holiday season.
|The Christkind Angel on the balcony of Frauenkirche
The market had been canceled a few times in its history, most notably during World War II. It resumed in 1948 amidst the bombed ruins of the church where it started with a new prologue of hope, given once again by the beautiful, winged Christkind Angel. You can read that welcoming poem HERE.
|Nuremberg in ruins 1945. Frauenkirche in background.
Christmas markets have spread worldwide, most adopting the same appearance, crafts, and tastes as those associated with Germany. But the most important to remember is the Christkind, welcoming one and all, and putting the emphasis on what is really important, the Reason for the Season, Emmanuel, God with us.
On a personal note:
had a blast spending time in Germany with you this year. As I’ve mentioned before,
my husband was in the Air Force and we were blessed to live in several places throughout
his 23-year career. Most notably, we were stationed at Rhein Main AFB in Frankfurt
not once, but twice! We volunteered for the second tour to be able to show our two
sons what they were too little to appreciate the first time around. Our youngest
was born over there. Our favorite area was Bavaria, a state in southern Germany. The
alpine region helped soothe our homesickness for the Colorado Rocky Mountains where
we both grew up.
Christmas present to you, following are links to all of the articles I’ve written
this year in case you’ve missed them or wish to revisit. Merry Blessed Christmas
and a Happy Holy New Year!
FEBRUARY - King Ludwig II: Moon King of Bavaria
MARCH - King Ludwig II: Mad King
APRIL - The Miracle of Ettal Abbey
SEPTEMBER - Königssee – ECHO. . .Echo. . .echo
OCTOBER - A Fairytale City of Art
NOVEMBER - A Passion for the Passion Play