This blog post was updated on October 25, 2018.
Fruitcakes parade through town as an ornate pyramid looks out on the scene. While not any sort of a sugar plum dream, this is the reality of the Dresden Christmas market, commonly referred to as the Dresden Striezelmarkt. Hailed as Germany’s oldest Christmas market, it is also arguably one of the most unique in Europe for its traditions, from fruitcake festivals to prized wooden toys. If you are toying with the idea of attending Dresden’s highlight of the year, here are a few fun facts about Germany’s oldest Christmas market.
Pass The Meat, Not the Glühwein: For most travelers in Europe around the holidays, Christmas markets largely entail roaming through wooden stalls littered with handicrafts and glühwein. However, in Dresden, the market began with other intentions. In 1434 when Elector Friedrich II and his brother Duke Sigismund allowed for an open market in town, including on the day before Christmas, it was only for the purpose of selling meats. Most townspeople would fast throughout the pre-Christmas season but on the day before Christmas, they could come to the market and buy their Christmas roast. Over the years, the Dresden Christmas Market would expand beyond meat to include sweets, handicrafts and of course glühwein.
Cakes By The Tons: Travelers will often see the Dresden Christmas Market referred to as the Striezelmarkt, referring to the sweet Christmas cake called Striezel or stollen. In fact, the market features a whole Stollen Festival, which is easily the highlight of the Dresden Christmas Market. A giant stolen weighting several tons is paraded through the old town and then cut with a 1.6-meter long knife. It is then sold throughout the market.
Pyramids Aren’t Just For Egypt: The Dresden Christmas Market might be one of the most unique for all of its quirky traditions. Beyond the tons of stollen up for grabs, visitors can also bask in a pyramid at the market. Measuring over 45 feet, the pyramid overlooks the Dresden Striezelmarkt. It comprises of figurines, wooden characters and nativity scenes, making for a truly unique type of pyramid.
A Taste of Toyland: If you are thinking of attending the Dresden Christmas Market, you might want to bring plenty of cash with you to load up on toys. The market is often hailed as one of the best places to buy handicrafts, namely wooden toys. Plenty of wooden figures are sold, originating from the Erzgebirge Mountains. The skilled wooden toymakers show off their creations, which have largely come to characterize the event over the centuries. Visitors can also find plenty of glass tree decorations and pottery through the stalls of the market.
Practicalities: This year’s Dresden Striezelmarkt marks the 579th in the city’s history. It will take place in Dresden’s Altstadt or old town from November 27th through December 24th. You can visit the event’s main site for more information.
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