Food markets are always unique and fun ways to eat something different, but there is something about Christmas markets that is even more special. There is nothing quite like strolling past dainty wooden huts with a hot cup of mulled wine, peering in at the artisanal Christmas tree decorations or stacks of home baked biscuits. An originally German tradition, but increasingly popular throughout Europe and North America, Christmas markets were born as simply a festive version of the markets that regularly took place in town squares.
As any Christmas enthusiast can testify, no two Christmas markets are the same: there is great variety, and really no rules about what kind of food you may find there. However, in Germany, as well as other north-eastern European countries, the tradition of the Christmas market is more established than it is in the UK, and Christmas market food and drink is more predictable as a result, with the same familiar Christmas treats to be found in most markets. As well as mulled wine, you will find German egg liquor punch, large gingerbread-type biscuits in the shape of hearts, roasted nuts, fruit dipped in chocolate, and of course, plenty of sausages. Beyond this, every region has its specialities which cannot be missed, such as stollen — a Christmas cake with candied fruit from Dresden. Not far from there, in Prague, the mulled wine and nuts remain, but different Czech foods appear: cones of sweet roasted dough dusted in sugar and cinnamon, as well as spit-roasted hams. This doesn’t exclude, of course, the presence of other, less traditional or not especially Christmassy foods, as are more common in British Christmas markets. Churros, chips, crepes and doughnuts, for example, are as present in continental markets as they are on the Broad Street Christmas market. It does seem that we have fewer Christmas culinary treats suitable for outdoor markets in the UK, apart from the beloved mulled wine and mince pies, which may be the reason British Christmas markets seem to host a wider variety of street food rather than the same seasonal foods.
Of course, Christmas markets are not only about food, we cannot forget the lights, decorations, music, and good company. When a carol, or ‘All I Want for Christmas’ is playing, and you are taking in the scene with a friend, seasonal cheer can be achieved whatever you happen to be eating or drinking.