The arrival of Winter in Germany, signalled by cold rain and short days, luckily also coincides with one of the most ‘golden’ times of the year – the Advent season! Found in many large cities across Europe, Christmas Markets, which began in Germany, have become a staple of the Advent season: known for hot drinks, handmade crafts, and glittering, glowing lights, these markets are a beloved and traditional seasonal highlight, brightening the days leading up to Christmas in more than just the literal sense.

Christmas Markets as we know them today have moved far away from the practicality of the first historical markets, where people came to church squares from the surrounding region to stock up on food and supplies before the deep Winter [1]. Nowadays, the Advent season in Germany seems incomplete without a visit to one of the markets for a drink with a friend, a little shopping, and taking in the sounds and smells associated with Christmas.

Christmas Market. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/525_2913604/1/525_2913604/cite. Accessed 7 Dec 2021.

With a timeline dating back centuries (the first recorded Christmas Market in Dresden was just one day long in 1434 [2]), these traditional markets have been both embraced and disavowed at various points throughout history by politicians, capitalists, communists, and religious groups alike; they even played a nation-building, propaganda focused role during the rise of National Socialism in Germany [3]. In the decades after World War II, however, Christmas Markets in their modern sense have claimed and redefined their important role in the landscape of German culture, growing in number and prominence both in Germany and abroad, with the markets even being replicated and celebrated across oceans [4].

© Katharina Grohmann

Of course, as was the case for many public gatherings around the world, German Christmas Markets were cancelled during the 2020 Advent season due to COVID-19 restrictions. With case-numbers again on the rise, many markets throughout Germany planned for 2021 were unfortunately called off shortly before opening in compliance with various health regulations from state governments.

In Münster, however, the Christmas Markets were allowed to open and have luckily stayed open – much to the delight of residents and tourists to the city (of course in compliance with the current safety guidelines – visitors to the market must show proof of vaccination to attend). In Münster, there are no less than six markets, mostly located throughout the city centre with a collective 300 stands for visitors to drink, eat, and shop at [5].

Known already in the region as a day trip destination for shopping, architecture, and dining, the addition of the Christmas Markets in Münster during the Advent season makes the city even more worth a visit. Under normal circumstances, the WiRe team would have had the pleasure of inviting Fellows for an in-person tour of all these markets, but due to pandemic circumstances, the tour will have to be virtual: therefore, we invite you to follow along on-screen as we make a few stops and have a drink or two at one of the many Glühwein stands around the city.

Town Hall

At the oldest and largest Christmas Market in Münster, you can drink a Glühwein right next to the location where the historic Treaty of Westphalia was signed. In addition to the large selection of jewellery and arts-and crafts for sale, here you can also snack on a variety of Christmas classics, such as Flammkuchen, roasted almonds, and potato pancakes known in Germany as Reibekuchen.

© Katharina Grohmann

Agedii Markt

With an extra focus on decoration, this market is complete with nativity scene, a six-meter tall wooden ‘Christmas pyramid’ typical of Germany, and a glockenspiel which plays for the visitors every half hour.

© Tillmann Niemeyer
© Tillmann Niemeyer

Giebelhüüskesmarkt on the Überwasserkirche

This market features many woodland-themed handcrafts and this year is in connection with an art exhibit inside the church called CITY ADVENT, in which over 2000 plexiglas squares are hung at different heights, delighting visitors with a work of art that creates a magical atmosphere both during the day and especially in the evening, when lasers are added to the mix [6].

© Tillmann Niemeyer
© Alison Seiler

X-MS on the Harsewinkelplatz

Our last stop is at Münsters newest Christmas market, opened for the first time this year, with a focus on goods that are local to Münster, sustainably made, and creative. Also to be spotted here among all the stands and market-goers is the ‘cherry pillar’ statue, a part of the Münster Skulptur Projekt, which one of our fellows, Julie, is currently researching! Showing works of international art for free in public spaces, the project began in 1977 and is celebrated every ten years.

© Alison Seiler
© Tillmann Niemeyer

St. Lamberti:

Easily recognisable by the little blue stands, the Christmas Market at the Lamberti Church greets guests who have just taken an enjoyable walk down the beautifully-lit Prinzipalmarkt.

© Alison Seiler
© Katharina Grohmann

Kiepenkerl:

Located right by the Kiepenkerl statue which represents the history of the young men who used to travel from town to town to deliver messages, transport goods, and even do a little bit of match-making, the market has a rustic feel to it, and is a perfect spot to enjoy a drink before sitting down for a typical Westphälichen dinner at either the Groß or Klein Kiepenkerl Restaurant.

© Alison Seiler

With that, we conclude our virtual tour of the Münster Christmas Markets. The WiRe team wishes everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and a positive start in the new calendar year. Cheers!

© Alison Seiler

Works Cited

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/how-christmas-markets-became-classic-holiday-tradition

[2] https://striezelmarkt.dresden.de/de/markttreiben/Dresdner-Striezelmarkt-Geschichte-Tradition.php

[3] https://www.history.com/news/the-nazis-war-on-christmas

[4] https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/best-christmas-market/index.html

[5] https://www.stadt-muenster.de/weihnachtsmarkt/startseite

[6] https://www.liebfrauen-muenster.de/aktuelles/beitrag/city-advent-2021.html

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