One of the joys of traveling through Europe is the Christmas Markets. This is where you can get pretty much anything you need to deck your house out for Christmas, and is abundant in local tradition. Generally speaking there is a festive and joyful buzz as local artisans show off their wares, and more often than not the market is well catered with local delicacies, and some sort of warming alcoholic liquid.
In a rather impromptu moment, we decided that for our own Christmas tree we would get an item from each Christmas Market – preferably related to the local custom. This blog post is a snapshot of that journey.
We spent a good couple of hours walking through the Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas Market, located at the foot of the Barcelona Cathedral. This Barcelona market is distinctly Spanish with a Catalan overlay. In addition to the Christmas section of the market, there is also a crafts market, where many locals sold anything from toys, jewellery to silk scarves and pottery.
Cataluña has a number of interesting Christmas traditions, with a specific focus on each household creating a nativity scene. Many of the stalls stock items for nativity scenes, ranging from the more traditional styling to a more modernisme style, with no nativity scene complete without a Caganer. The man wearing traditional catalan clothes, squatting and having a poo is a custom from the 18th century. The poo is seen as a sign of good luck as it fertilises the earth to ensure a good harvest for the next year.
The other tradition is the Caga Tió, which is a large log with a smiling face, wearing a Barretina (the traditional Catalan hat). The name literally means Poo Log, and the children spend every day up until Christmas Eve looking after the Caga Tió – ensuring it is warm, and each night feed him Turron. The point is to ensure that he is nice and full, so that when it comes to Christmas Eve, he will poo out lots of treats for the children. After a big meal on Christmas Eve, the children gather around the Caga Tió and hit him with sticks singing a song which translates to:
Caga Tió hazelnuts and turron
If you don’t want to poo
We will hit you with a stick
By all accounts, Geneva was much more muted affair, with very little Christmas Market festivities. Most of the markets we came across were more craft markets, where you may want to buy gifts for people. There was one aspect of Christmas markets that we are coming to expect, that is the Hot Wine (or whatever else hot alcohol there is).
Firenze and Siena
On our last night we found the Firenze Christmas market – a little like the Barcelona market in that it had bespoke and had crafted Christmas related items, and also Hot wine – there was a few more food stalls in Firenze, however I had underdressed for the cool evening, so it was a quick hot wine, and then off home.
We were pretty excited to see our first German Christmas Market, and we were not disappointed! The Christmas Markets off Marienplatz wound there way through a number of blocks, seeping into existing farmers markets, and then out the other side. Our local Christmas Market in Sendling was a much smaller affair, but nonetheless enjoyable. Again, the main purpose was items for Christmas trees and to set up your own manger.
We unfortunately missed the Krampuslauf (Krampus run) which happens around 6 December – Bavarian folklore is that the Krampus, a half goat-half demon punishes those children that have been bad, and is the companion of Saint Nicholas. A serious oversight on our behalf, and one we will look to rectify next time around!
Christmas markets in Budapest were fabulous, with the real focus being on the food. The stalls with Hungarian delicacies were abundant, and the smell of Kampampuli delighted the senses. We arrived for the last day of the “christmas” markets, and managed to sneak in our Christmas tree decoration from Hungary. That being said, I am a fan of Christmas markets, and I think they should totally be a thing in New Zealand/Australia – just maybe with a bit more of a Summer feel 🙂