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Europe’s oldest Christmas market is almost 600 years old


SchiDD|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

Daniel Esparza - published on 12/06/23

Believed to have the oldest Christmas market tradition in the world, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt has enchanted locals and visitors alike since 1434.
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In the heart of Dresden (Germany), the Striezelmarktis a living testament to the lasting spirit of Christmas. Believed to be the oldest Christmas market tradition in the world, this festive spectacle has enchanted locals and visitors alike since, tradition claims, 1434. The Striezelmarkt is a celebration of time-honored customs – and the perfect place to get familiar with German holiday traditions.

The Striezelmarkt owes its name to a delicious treat that, at least for locals, is synonymous with Christmas: Allerheiligenstriezel, “All Saints’ Bread.” Also known as Striezel, this traditional German sweet, braided bread, rich with raisins (and sometimes nuts) takes center stage at the market. Bakers come to this market to showcase and sell their own versions of it, including an also traditional diversion from the original traditional Striezel: the Stollen.

As implied in the name, Allerheiligenstriezel is a bread baked for the feast of All Saints. In Austria and Bavaria, it was traditional that godfathers would give this Striezel to their godchildren in this feast. The Stollen, on the other hand, is a traditional Christmas bread, and includes some other ingredients like candied fruit. Often referred to as Christstollen (Christ’s cake) or Weinachtsstollen (Christmas’ cake), the Stollen sold in this market is simply called Dresdner Stollen – that’s how intimately related this kind of bread, the city, and the market are.

Walking through the Striezelmarkt is stepping into a Christmas wonderland. The market square, with its wooden stalls and classic twinkling lights, exudes a somewhat nostalgic yet classic Christmas charm. As is the case with most of these Christmas fairs, craftsmen and artisans offer unique handcrafted ornaments, toys, and gifts that reflect the cultural heritage of the city and its neighboring areas. The cherry on top is the traditional German Christmas carols concerts held in the Striezelmarkt – the perfect backdrop for a family stroll.

But is it the oldest?

Now, some argue that the title of the oldest Christmas market belongs to Nuremberg. With over 150 stalls, the Nuremberg Christmas market is renowned for itsGlühwein (mulled wine) and handmade holiday decorations. But even though it is surely one of the world’s oldest and most famous Christmas markets, it only dates back to the 16th century – Dresden’s being at least one century older.

In essence, the Striezelmarkt (like most historical Christmas markets) is more than just a market: It is a living testament to the endurance and resilience of a faith that has been standing strong for centuries. As visitors walk through the stalls, they become part of a timeless celebration – that of the Incarnation of God.  

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