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Christmas markets around the world

Anna Blackburn takes a look at popular Christmas markets around the world and some a little closer to home.

The smell of pine and hot chocolate greet your nose as the carollers jingle their bells and take a deep breath before their voices turn into the sound of angels singing from above. As far as the eye can see, stalls lined with garland trimming fill the stone streets. Everyone is cold and bundled, but smiling. The snow on the ground makes it feel like you’re shopping in the North Pole. Workers proudly display their craft and are always trying to get you to buy more than you need or can ever afford.

One of the most popular Christmas markets in the world is in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. From the 17th November to 31st December, the old Station building and Wheelbury Gardens are lit up with thousands of twinkling fairy lights. The lights and music begin on the 13th December when the Lucia children’s parade walks through the market, but until then there are over 60 stalls to ponder and you can try Danish donuts, wine, caramelised onions and more. If the artist in you is longing for a show, multiple performances are put on including “the Nutcracker” and more in the Valley concert hall. Before you leave though, make sure to stop by the Honey Cake Castle. The “Honningkageslottet” has free admission and you can decorate your own honey cake heart.

Christmas markets are just as popular in the US. The Chriskindlmarkt in the Chicago Loop has many traditional German pastries, that pair well with a cup of Glühwein (hot spiced wine) that comes in a souvenir cup that’s decorated in a new design each year. Walking into the Daley Plaza from the 16th of November to the 20th of December is a magical feeling. High school choirs from the suburbs sing at each entrance while the elves collecting money for the Salvation Army ring their bells to each song. If you’re bringing children make sure to meet Christkind, the angel who wears a gold crown and delivers toys, much like Santa Claus. It is a dazzling experience watching the hand-blown ornaments being made as well as the woodcarver making toys. After the market spend the rest of the day in the city ice-skating in Maggie Daley Park or read the story displayed in the windows at Macy’s.

If you are the type of person who likes to go off the beaten track, especially at Christmas, the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, Germany is sure to catch your eye. The market is named in honour of traditional Christmas bread “Stollen” or, in German, “Striezel”. A giant loaf of Striezel is paraded through the streets followed by a ceremonial slicing of the bread. In 1434, Prince Friedrich II made a proclamation permitting open markets in Germany. Initially, the market only sold meats but today you can find a wide variety of items from candle arches, pottery, and Herrnhut stars to blueprints and Räuchermänner (smoking men). This year Dresden celebrates its 584th Striezelmarkt with stalls of traditional treats which include gingerbread and Pflaumentoffel, a chimney sweep shaped treat made with prunes that is said to bring good luck to anyone who eats one. While this market is the most popular, it is also surrounded by eleven other Christmas markets each with individual themes, so spend your holiday getting to explore and discover the uniqueness of each one.

If you’re planning to stay at home this Christmas, there is still lots to explore here in Ireland. While there are several Christmas markets here in Dublin, the Galway Christmas Market are a lovely little holiday getaway. From the 16th of November to 22nd of December, Eyre Square is filled with people and lights. Here you can enjoy live music, puppet shows, storytelling, school choir performances, carolling, and carnival games. First year UCD student, Luke Connelly shared his experience about Galway’s Christmas Market: “the narrow streets give you a feeling of intimacy when walking through Eyre Square and there’s a real sense of homes hearth. The food is good and the city feels alive whether it’s raining, hailing or snowing.”

Christmas markets around the world are popular because they give off a true sense of happiness and bring out a child-like wonder in all of us, so if you’re looking for something to do this holiday season, stop by a Christmas market and enjoy the many beauties of Christmas.