The annual Christmas Market in Nuremberg, Germany is neither the oldest nor the largest, though it is by far the most famous. Nevertheless it is old, probably dating back to the 16th century; and very large, receiving as many as two million visitors annually. The Nuremberg market’s fame is due in no small part to the city’s reputation as Germany’s quintessential Christmas city, as well as to its association with T.E. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. If there is an ideal place to acquire a Nutcracker doll, or other traditional toy, the Christmas Market of Nuremberg is it.
The Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg can be definitively dated as far back as 1610, though it is almost certainly older. It was probably an outgrowth of the regular market days, and there are references to the practice of giving of gifts to children in the records of the time. By the mid-17th century Christmas sales had become so profitable that the Christmas market became independent. With the exception of the years during and immediately after World War II, Nuremberg’s Christmas market has been open every year for the last four centuries.
The Christkindlesmarkt takes place in and around the city’s Hauptmarkt, where it has usually been located for most of its long history. It features approximately one-hundred and eighty stalls, all draped in festive decorations and Christmas lights. Christmas market traditions include horse-drawn carriage rides and lantern-light processions. One easily overlooked but not-to-be-missed Nuremberg Christmas site can be found in the city’s Germanic National Museum: a wooden box from the Christmas market, dated 1628, addressed to Regina Susanna Harssdorfferin. It is the world’s oldest known Christmas gift box.
The Hauptmarkt is located in the very center of Nuremberg, about a hundred miles east of Frankfurt and two-hundred miles south of Berlin. The dates of the market vary from year to year, but it generally runs from the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent until Christmas Eve. Hours vary from stall to stall, and the entire market is sprinkled with special events (check the website for details). There is no charge for admission, although many a small fortune is spent here! Web: www.christkindlesmarkt.de (official website of the Christkindlesmarkt)