As with most traditions, locale is key to understanding and appreciating Christmas in Germany. Millions of visitors flock to the large, open air markets that are erected late in November or early December. The exact date for each market depends on the town.
These “Weihnachstmärkte” date back to the 14th century. At that time, it was one of several yearly markets. The winter stalls provided everything German families needed for the holiday season, from baking molds and decorations to toys and treats.
Different parts of Germany became famous for specific traditions or creations they sold at their Christmas markets. This post is the second in a series on the regional markets and how unique each one was. Be sure to check out part one in this series featuring Frankfurt’s imprints.
Today we’re traveling to Augsburg, Germany where Christmas is celebrated in several unique ways. Augsburg is most known for its Angel Play (Engelesspiel), which is performed on the Town Hall balcony each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of December at 6pm. The backdrop of the play is a life-size Advent Calendar, in which each window of the hall is alight with one of twenty-three Augsburg children dressed as angels. These children are preselected by the city’s officials for their graceful movement, gentle countenances, courage (mostly of heights), and musical skill.
On December 23rd, all of the angels glide down stairs and perform one last time on the Town Hall porch at 7pm. The music of the play sets the atmosphere for Augsburg’s massive Christkindmarkt, which has an average of one million visitors each year.
Along with the breathtaking performance of Angels, Augsburg also offers the magical Fairy Tale Road, a display of well-known scenes from a Christmas German Fairy Tale in the windows of several shops in the center of the market. The scenes are beautifully crafted with puppets and scenery that may remind you of the earliest Christmas cartoons that still participate in many American family traditions today.
Next week, we’ll take an imaginary trip to the regions surrounding the Erzgebirge mountain range and discover how the original resources there were used to create Christmas joy as far back as the 17th century.
Have you ever been to Augsburg for the special events listed above? Please tell us in the comments below.