What started over thirteen years ago as a PR campaign has grown beyond all expectation both in the size and locations of the Christkindlmarkt or Christmas market. Kurt Stroscher the man behind this incredible success dreamt up the idea after being given the job of marketing Frankfurt, his home city, beyond Germany.
When he persuaded a group of German stallholders to ship their stands across to Frankfurt´s twin city of Birmingham it was amidst much speculation and only intended as a one-off exercise, now over thirteen years later the market has grown to encompass 180 stalls and has spread to other UK cities.
German Markets in UK Cities
Frankfurt sponsors the market in return for paying Birmingham council for all the administration costs, policing and rubbish collection. Last year the Birmingham market attracted nearly 3 million visitors and Frankfurt sponsors another three markets in Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester which together have become the UK´s four largest German markets.
The Birmingham market has now become, according to BIrmingham City Council, larger than their counterparts in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg.
Cologne sponsors a market in London´s South Bank and the same company that runs it also operate markets in Canterbury, Glasgow and Peterborough. Geraud, a French firm, run markets in Cheltenham and Liverpool and across the country many more Christmas markets are operational.
Lincoln have been running their own market since 1982 after local councillors visited Neustadt an der Weinstrasse and decided to have one of their own.
German Markets in History
Markets like these have been running in Frankfurt since1393 but it wasn´t until Prince Albert brought home a Christmas tree with his luggage from a holiday in Germany in 1841 that the British people began to take an interest in the German Christmas traditions.
The Christmas tree, which the Germans invented, is traditionally put up on 24th December and decorated with wooden ornaments and candles. This is their main celebration when shops close early, families get together and presents are opened.
These Christkindlmarkt have become an important Christmas tradition across the UK, the atmosphere is great, the mulled wines and the German beers not far behind but the icing on the cake for me was the bilingual singing reindeer that crowed out carols above the busiest beer stand on the block and the enormous spit-roasted ham rolls.
Most of the German markets across the UK finish early on Christmas Eve allowing the stallholders to get back home to Germany for their Christmas celebrations.