Part 2/2: How to Create a German Christmas Market at Home
If you missed Part One of our guide to German Christmas Markets where we gave an introduction to what they are and why they are simply the best, check that out here. Otherwise, continue on as we give you some ideas for how to create a German Christmas market at home!
As we learned in Part One of this article, one of the best parts of the holiday season is German Christmas markets. But with the lockdowns and shutdowns happening this year due to the pandemic, the opportunity for this highly anticipated tradition has been denied to many as well.
So why not end the year with one more at-home fling in the DIY (Do It Yourself) and DIH (Do It at Home) spirit that has been the hallmark of 2020 and create a German Christmas market at home?
Here are some ideas for how to create a German Christmas market at home:
1. Outdoors, indoors, or both
1. Outdoors, indoors, or both
First of all, to create a German Christmas market at home decide if you want it to be outdoors, indoors, or a little of both.
Traditionally, a Christmas market is an open-air market that takes place outside as you walk around from booth to booth sipping on hot gluhwein (more on this later!), browsing handmade crafts, and sampling goodies.
But there are also heated tents in the mix at the larger markets with seated areas to give your feet a rest and enjoy your treats, perhaps a more extensive bar, and maybe even live entertainment.
So if you have a spacious backyard or nice patio area, having some activities outside and others inside would feel very traditional. But if you only have indoor space to work with, that’s okay, too. This is your own DIY German Christmas market, after all!
Whether indoors, outdoors, or a little of both, one of the most important aspects to create a German Christmas market at home is doing everything you can to recreate that magical atmosphere.
That means themed holiday decorations and LOTS of lights! Let me reiterate, you cannot have too many lights!
If you are creating your at-home Christmas market after the Christmas holiday, use this opportunity to take advantage of all those after-holiday sales and markdowns. Load up on decorations and lights, and use them now before they go into storage for a year!
Hang enough twinkle lights inside and outside to create a glow bright enough to see by so you can turn all central lighting off. Accent with any other warm lighting you have, such as candles.
If you have a fireplace, this is the perfect opportunity to grab some firewood and light it up. If you are extending your festivities outdoors as well, have a small campfire to cozy up to. Or if you have one, add a heat lamp out on the porch. German Christmas markets are outdoor events amid chilly European winters. So there are always places within the markets to warm up your hands and noses!
If you were in Germany at a Christmas market, you’d be strolling through cobblestone streets with the backdrop of a perfect, fairytale-like half-timbered village. So consider making some hand-painted imitation half-timbered facades (using cutouts of basic poster board and acrylic paint) to help set the scene. Use any German-themed decorations you have on hand or can make. This could include German and Bavarian flags, gold Christmas star cutouts, and hanging lebkuchenherzen (more on this below) around as decorations to add some extra German flare to the decor.
If you are going to create a German Christmas market at home, no market experience is complete without Christmas music playing in the background.
As you walk the city-center streets of a little town in Germany all spruced-up with their yearly Christmas market, you’ll hear many classic holiday tunes spreading cheer throughout the evening.
So create a lengthy playlist of your favorite Christmas and holiday songs to add to the ambiance!
Possibly THE most important factor when creating a German Christmas market at home is the FOOD.
The booths upon booths lining the streets of different savory and sweet treats offered at German Christmas markets are easily the biggest highlight and draw to these events every year. So when making your own German Christmas market at home, having a proper sampling menu of some of the most common German treats you’d find in a traditional Christmas market abroad will make your DIY event feel even more authentic.
Try out some new recipes to make the items yourself! Or source them from your local grocery store (or representative items that are comparable if you have trouble finding them). Either way, here are just a few of the authentic German Christmas market foods and snacks to consider offering at your own event:
- Wurst: No German Christmas market is complete without sausage in all its forms. A traditional Bratwurst with mustard, fried onions, and sauerkraut, either on a stick or between a crispy roll of bread. A sampling of little finger-sized Nuremberg sausages dipped in mustard or horseradish sauce. Or Currywurst, bite-sized pieces of sausage covered in spicy curry ketchup topped with curry powder and served with Pommes Frites (french fries) and a little bamboo fork all in an easy-to-carry paper dish. You’ll have a hard time deciding which variety to try, so why not try them all?
- Champignons: Little mushrooms sauteed in spices and topped with a tangy creme fraiche (or sour cream) garlic sauce.
- Flammkuchen: Essentially a fancy, smoky little German pizza, this is a crispy-thin flatbread crust with a creme fraiche sauce, traditionally topped with bacon and caramelized onions. All baked to perfection.
- Kartoffelpuffer: Crispy and flavorful German potato pancakes most traditionally served with a side of applesauce.
- Knoblauchbrot: Essentially this is hot, steamy garlic bread served with a garlic cream dipping sauce.
- Langos: Basically langos is a deep-fried Hungarian cheesy bread adopted by German Christmas markets. The dough recipe is simple and deep-fried and yummy. It can be eaten as-is or topped with creamy, garlic-y, cheesy goodness.
- Kasespaetzle: Similar to macaroni and cheese, these traditional chewy German egg noodles are topped with yummy cheeses. And sometimes caramelized onions and bacon, too. It’s the ultimate warm comfort food on a cold, wintry German day.
- Mandeln: No German Christmas market is complete without the smell of these candied, roasted nuts (usually almonds) making your mouth water. Make them yourself and fill your home with the best warm, nutty fragrance imaginable. Serve them warm and in a traditional paper cone. If you’re outside in the chilly air, you’ll feel like you’re walking the streets of Nuremberg.
- Lebkuchen: You’ll see these cheery little traditional gingerbread cookies everywhere at a German Christmas market. Sometimes baked into recognizable shapes (lebkuchenherzen) and expertly decorated and wrapped, these spicy Christmas cookies are fun (and yummy!) to eat. And they also make great gifts and decorations.
- Dampfnudel: A dampfnudel is a steamed dumpling bun that can be either savory or sweet. But it’s most commonly served in a delicious pool of warm vanilla sauce.
- Waffles and crepes: While hardly products of Germany alone, no German Christmas market is truly complete without booths offering hot waffles with all the toppings and hot crepes with all the fillings. Nutella is a common favorite for both.
- Stollen: You will see this traditional German Christmas bread served absolutely EVERYWHERE in Germany around Christmas time. Perhaps similar to a fruitcake, this moist, flakey bread loaf is made with candied fruits and nuts baked inside and topped with powdered sugar.
Other than the food, the other major must-have to create a German Christmas market at home is all of the cozy, hot drinks. And most of them are delightfully boozy.
- Gluhwein: Without a doubt, gluhwein is the star of the show. If you’re doing it right, you’re never without a mug of this pleasantly hot and fragrant mulled wine in of your hands to keep you warm and lightly buzzed while walking through a chilly, wintry German Christmas market. This classic German hot drink is made with red wine, oranges and orange juice, sugar, mulling spices, and an extra kick of brandy if desired (hint: it’s desired). While dry, red wine is used in traditional recipes, you can find gluhwein made with white wine in some German Christmas markets and offered in most European Christmas markets. Either way, making and brewing this concoction yourself will fill your home with the most amazing spicy, cozy fragrance.
- Eierpunsch: This hot drink is commonly referred to as “German eggnog”. But while the ingredients do call for egg yolks, the comparison stops there. While eggnog is made with milk, eierpunsch is made with white wine, spices, and vanilla. And it can be served with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick to make it extra festive. It has it’s own unique flavor and texture apart from eggnog. So whether or not you’re a fan of eggnog, give this cozy German drink a try!
- Heisse schokolade: Hot chocolate, but make it booze. For some, it’s just not Christmas without a mug-full of rich, velvety hot chocolate. While of course you can drink it as-is, most German Christmas markets will have the option to add a shot of rum, amaretto, or other liqueurs to your hot chocolate. And why not?
- Kinderpunsh: Not all hot drinks at a German Christmas market will get you sloshed. If alcohol isn’t your thing, or if you’re with the kiddos, kinderpunsch is a yummy, cozy, and (ahem) responsible option. Essentially non-alcoholic gluhwein, this drink is made with juice as a base instead of wine. And it’s still spicy, sweet, and warming on a chilly Christmas market day.
Lastly, it is of the utmost importance when creating a German Christmas market at home to find the tackiest, most over-the-top little Christmas-themed mug from which to sip your hot drink of choice.
All hot drinks are traditionally served in endearingly kitschy little Christmas-themed mugs representing the city and year of the market you’re in. A small deposit is made with the purchase of your first mug-full of your favorite drink to sip from as you walk around. At the end of the day, you can choose to either return the mug for your deposit back or keep it as a souvenir. Most people choose the latter to add to a growing collection of their favorite markets and memories.
To create a German Christmas market at home, another significant element to account for is crafts.
German Christmas markets are a showcase of talented local craftsmen. So there are always tons of unique and handmade crafts to browse and purchase as a souvenir. You can also use this time to load up on some great gifts for birthdays and holidays for the upcoming year.
So to account for this important aspect in your own at-home Christmas market, get on Pinterest and find a fun craft your family can do together that night. Or shop online on Etsy or check to see if your favorite Christmas market vendors have a website and order some unique handmade items. Then wrap them up and open them together!
The final factor in our guide for how to create a German Christmas market at home is entertainment.
German Christmas markets of any size almost always have some form of live entertainment throughout the day, or at least once a night. This live entertainment can be in the form of musical bands or small orchestras of any size or soloists, vocalists, short plays, or odd talents such as juggling, etc.
But the entertainment at your DIY at-home German Christmas market doesn’t have to be complicated or require any bookings. If any members of your family play an instrument or sing and want to perform or want to have a talent show, let them entertain away!
Or you can plan something as simple as watching a favorite holiday movie together to end the night, snuggled by the fire with another lebkuchen or two. And maybe one more mug of gluhwein.
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