A Musical Christmas in Germany

Can anyone imagine what Christmas would be without music? Does anyone want to? The first time I went to Germany at Christmas my head was full of dreams about cities and markets and wonderful things to buy—dreams that came true immediately on my first evening in Munich at the big Christkindlmarkt in the Marienplatz. I was completely dazzled, and then (as I wrote in my first post): All of a sudden … [Read more...]

In Germany, St. Nicholas is not Santa Claus

Does everyone know that St. Nicholas is not Santa Claus? I have to admit that when I began visiting Germany at Christmas, having been raised on Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, I assumed they were one and the same and I suspect I’m not the only American who has failed to note the difference. In Germany, on the other hand, the 4th-century bishop Sankt Nikolaus, also known as der … [Read more...]

St. Nicholas and his Day in Germany at Christmas

Many of you are probably already familiar with St. Nicholas Day, known in Germany as Nikolaustag, when, on the evening of December 5, little children place their [well-polished] shoes or boots outside the door, on the windowsill or under the bed. They write letters to the saint and set out carrots for his white horse, hoping that in the morning he will remember them and fill their shoes with tasty … [Read more...]

Christmas Shopping in Seiffen

As I begin this post about Christmas shopping in Seiffen, I realize it has the possibility of being either extremely short or extremely long*. The short version might go something like this. Though Seiffen is by no means a large town, it is home to more than 100 Christmas shops and woodcarving workshops. Most are located on, or not far from, the Hauptstrasse (Main Street). They include … [Read more...]

Seiffen Hotels at Christmas

Let me start with the bad news. If you were thinking of traveling to Seiffen or any of the other towns in Germany's Erzgebirge with popular Christmas markets this December, there's a high likelihood there will be no room at the inn. I base this both on a conversation I had with the hotel management of the Hotel Erbgericht Buntes Haus where I stayed in July and a quick perusal of TripAdvisor … [Read more...]

Traveling to Seiffen at Christmas

I’ve grown so accustomed to traveling with ease between German cities that I was a little surprised that getting to Seiffen was kind of a hassle. As usual, the best option for me was the train, so any difficulty was mitigated to a large extent by the ease of booking tickets online and having access to Deutsche Bahn’s explicit timetables (leave from Platform #xx, arrive at Platform #yy, XX minutes … [Read more...]

Seiffen: Germany’s Year-round Christmas Toy Town

One of my last posts of 2013 was dedicated to The Erzgebirge: Santa’s Workshop in Germany, a region, which at the time I knew only by reputation. However, a late-July trip to London this year gave me the excuse to fly over to Germany and fill in the blanks, as it were. With just a couple of nights at my disposal, I realized I only had time for one town but the choice was a no-brainer: the … [Read more...]

More of the Best German Christmas Market “Christmas” Souvenirs

Here it is December already and somehow I didn’t get quite as far as anticipated in my catalogue of “Best German Christmas Market Souvenirs” so I’m going to pick up the pace by cheating (kind of) and referring everyone back to a whole lot of earlier posts. Even though you can buy all kinds of presents at the Christmas markets, you've probably noticed that my focus has been on those items that are … [Read more...]

The Best German Christmas Market Souvenirs: Candle Arches (Schwibbögen)

Thanksgiving has now come and gone. Mine was especially good this year because I got to spend it in New York with lots of old friends. I couldn’t resist doing a quick reconnoiter of the Holiday Market at Union Square, New York’s version of a European Christmas market. Much to my surprise, I came across a booth called German Delights prominently displaying a number of elaborate candle arches, or … [Read more...]

The Best German Christmas Market Souvenirs: Nutcrackers & Smoking Men

The next addition to the list of best German Christmas market souvenirs: nutcrackers and smoking men (or Nussknäcker and Räuchermänner) from the talented woodcarvers of the Erzgebirge. Who among us is not familiar with German nutcrackers? If you’re like me, you first learned about them in your childhood, most likely by hearing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite or possibly attending a performance … [Read more...]