German Christmas markets are famous around the world. But what words do you need to know to enjoy them?
We asked our German Tutor and native Berliner Vivien to give us the top vocabulary you need when visiting a traditional Christmas market…
If you want to enjoy all that the market has to offer, you need to remember to bring a bit of cash. Though many countries have been keen to embrace card payments for even the smallest purchases, many German restaurants and shops only take cash. And Christmas markets are no exception!
Before you go – make sure you wrap up warm. The temperature in Germany is usually between -1°C and 5°C in December, so you’ll need some extra clothes to enjoy the outdoor markets. The most important items to bring are “die Handschuhe” – gloves – as you’ll need to keep your hands out of your pockets to enjoy the special food and drink on sale.
And don’t forget a warm wooly “Mütze” to keep your head warm (and protect you from any rain or snow…)
And of course, a thick scarf to keep the cold air away from your neck!
Of course, the most important word you need to learn is Christmas market in German – “der Weihnachtsmarkt”. It’s a compound noun with two parts: “Weihnachts” (Christmas) and “markt” (market).
Christmas markets have a long tradition in Germany. For centuries, special outdoor markets have been arranged during Advent (the four weeks before Christmas) to add some joy and light during the cold German winter. These days, the tradition has spread all around the world – you can find Christmas markets in the UK, the USA and even in Japan! Berlin itself has over 50 different markets happening during December!
No Christmas market would be complete without its centerpiece – the Christmas tree, or “Der Weinhachtsbaum”. Usually a “Weihnachtsbaum” is decorated with small lights.
Most German Christmas markets will have a nativity scene, or “Weihnachtskrippe”, linking back to the Christian roots of the tradition.
Make sure you try a glass of Glühwein! It’s a hot alcoholic drink, made with:
The more adventurous drinkers enjoy a “Feuerzangenbowle” – where a rum-soaked sugar lump is set on fire so the caramelised sugar drips into a bowl of Glühwein below!
If you are looking for something really alcoholic, you can ask for an extra “Schuss” – or shot – to be added to your drink. Be careful though – it’s easy to get drunk to quickly on sweet, warming Glühwein!
This is something quite special to Germany. If you buy some Glühwein, it is usually served in a special Christmas market mug. These often have a unique design for the market you’re at. You usually need to pay a bit extra to “borrow” the glass – usually 2 or 3 euro per glass. The money is given back when you return the glass, or you can keep it as a cheap souvenir. This deposit is usually called “der Pfand” in German, as with the similar system for bottles.
“Die Mandeln” – almonds – are the basis of many Christmas foods in Germany, and if you have a sweet tooth, Christmas markets are a great place to try these special nuts yourself! “Gebrannte Mandeln” are a type of candied almonds that are cooked and covered in crunchy, browned sugar. Lekker!
Christmas markets traditionally were an opportunity for local crafts and trade people to show off their wares in time for the holiday season. Even today, many of the stalls at the markets feature home-made or artisan products, from soap to candles to decorations, which make for perfect Christmas presents – “die Weihnachtsgeschenke”.
Most Christmas markets finish at the end of December – but don’t worry, they will be back again next year for you to enjoy! We say “Tschüss” to the Christmas markets until then!