Enchanting Ornaments & Gifts to Discover
at the European Christmas Markets
Christmas Markets Treasures
I adore going to the European Christmas Markets. The local markets provide a sense of the Christmas spirit with people getting together and enjoying the season over a glass of Gluhwein.
One of the reasons I adore Christmas markets is to see the creativity of local artisans and to find unique & memorable gifts. You won’t find any big box stores in the markets and most items are hand-crafted.
In the German markets, many Christmas decorations have their roots in the folklore and customs of Erzgebirge in the Ore Mountain region of Germany.
This was a mining area until the mid-1800 when demand for ore started to decrease. The industrious villages had a large supply of wood, skilled carvers and artisans and folklore to draw on transitioning the region into a production of Christmas pyramids, smokers, nutcrackers, angels and more to supply to the growing demand for Christmas decor and gifts.
Look out for these items at the Christmas markets for memorable keepsakes of your trip to Europe and to bring Christmas cheer for many years to come in your home.
Weihnachtspyramide | Christmas pyramids
Christmas Pyramids light up the town squares across Germany and beyond. Large wooden structures are carved with nativity scenes, angels, wise men, and other Christian symbolism.
Smaller wooden carved versions and candle versions are available in the markets. A central carousel is turned by warm air from the lit candles below.
There was one of these in our house as a child from my German grandma. I always loved lighting the candles watching it turn, shadows & images dancing onto the walls.
Engels | Angels
Angels are a popular ornament and figurine available in almost every Christmas Market.
You will find straw, paper, glass, wood and ceramic versions made with local techniques and style.
Geburt | Nativity
I have never seen such elaborate nativity sets as in Germany. This is both in city displays with elaborately carved figures and also in the nativity sets for purchase as either complete sets or individual items. One resident told me they add to theirs every year as a tradition.
The market stalls in Augsburg Germany had the most extensive collections with any miniature you could think of to add to your display – buckets, lights, animals – an endless configuration of figurines.
Räuchermännchen | Smokers
Wood carved Santas, miners and nutcrackers with circular mouths and pipes are actually incense burners.
The Räuchermännchen comes apart in two pieces, usually at its hip, where you insert a lit/burning cone-shaped incense block, the so-called Räucherkerze. Reassemble and soon smoke will be puffing out of the figure’s mouth giving it the nickname “Smoker”.
Nussknacker | Nutcrackers
These are my favorite from the time I was a little girl and saw my first ballet of the Nutcracker. My mother collects them having bought them in after Christmas sales for years and today there is a full army dressed in different ornamental military costumes that greets me when I go home for the holidays.
An authentic “Made in Germany” one has now made it into her collection as well.
More handicraft work in on display with hand-carved wooden lanterns, paper lanterns, metal cut-out lanterns, and glass-blown lanterns.
Several varieties are available to add warmth to your Christmas decor.
Tree toppers are another special keepsake that you might want to seek out in the German Christmas Markets.
They take many forms including stars, finials, and angels.
The stars represent the Star of Bethlehem.
The angel became popular thanks to Queen Victoria in the Victorian era when a picture was published of her, Prince Albert and the children around a tree topped with a Christmas angel.
Elves / Gnomes
Elves and gnomes are also a Christmas decor favorite. Someone has to make all the toys for Santa and keep an eye on the little ones to keep track of who is naughty or nice.
These charming characters have lots of attitude and are handcrafted in wool and ceramic.
Most of the European countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Children will leave their boots polished on December 5 for St. Nicholas who leaves presents.
Their St. Nicholas has a long white beard like the American Santa Claus. You will find Santa figures & decor throughout the markets.
You will also find huts of every variety of ornaments. Traditional balls, themed glass figurines, quirky characters, wooden carved figures and more….Many of these are hand-crafted for one of a kind treasures.
My favorite today are these porcelain faced figures elaborately crafted by a local in Cesky Krumluv. No two are alike and I have not seen any like these in other markets.
Hand crafted finds
The markets will also have specialty items including cooking tools and garden decor.
Other booths have woolen hats and scarves. The hats in the Czech Republic are some of the warmest I have found with wool and soft liners. They definitely know how to manage the cold.
Christmas Market Mugs
A final souvenir that will also warm you up is a glass of Gluhwein in a souvenir mug. When you purchase your beverage, you will pay an additional pfand (deposit) of 2-4 euros for the mug. If you want to keep the mug, you can. If not, just return it to the same booth for a refund of your deposit.
Tip: If you are keeping the mug, you can exchange it for a clean one to avoid spiced wine drips in your daybed.
Christmas Markets Shopping Tips
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