When did Christmas Markets become a thing? To my great delight, it seems that every town and city around me with a thriving hub of artisans, food producers, and hand made goods is opening up the public square to offer local populations a gratifying outdoor shopping experience this winter.
The pandemic has made us more conscious of our shopping choices, and infused us with a desire to “do good”. These values have generated greater appeal for shopping locally, and seeking out organic and ethically sourced products. Also, people seek to be more outdoors, and shopping is not just about the errand but about the experience, to be shared with friends and with family.
Shopping locally is the trendy new way to create a one-of-a-kind neighborhood. It contributes to building relationships within the community and helping support the local economy, all while building a more vibrant and unified society.
Its not just a local trend. Christmas Markets have been happening around the world for years, however their popularity is growing in many countries and has the retail industry and academics studying the trend to understand how it is impacting our society.
“What makes the markets so important isn’t just buying an ornament. It’s this whole experience of sound, smell, visuals, but also the physicality of people around you.”– Dirk Spennemann, associate professor in cultural heritage management at Australia’s Charles Sturt University
Origins of the Christmas Market
Christmas markets originated in Germany, dating as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries and even earlier versions have been documented in Medieval Times. By the 1980s and 1990s, Germany’s Christmas markets had become so beloved that they became a cultural export. Cities in countries around the world—including Britain, the US, Japan, and India began to host their own German-style Christmas markets, complete with bratwurst, glühwein, and twinkling lights.
Back then, people lived in scattered communities within walking distance of a church that held markets for all religious feast days. The winter market was typically the biggest, with local artisans selling pottery, meat, baked goods, and maybe some sweets, if the sugar wasn’t too expensive.
In Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Christmas markets transform every holiday season into winter wonderlands. Wooden huts adorned with twinkling lights and boughs of holly line the streets, and vendors sell hand-carved ornaments and Nativity scene figurines, alongside piping hot mugs of glühwein (mulled wine), as Christmas carols fill the air.
I have counted at least 20 communities around me holding a Christmas Market this year, as part of the winter celebration line-up. I am thrilled for local vendors to have an opportunity to bring their craft to us, and grateful for local governments and community organisations to have recognized the benefits of bringing Christmas Markets to a population hungry to get outdoors, and experience a new cultural heritage while giving a boost to the local economy. I hope you get to experience one where you live.