‘Twas the hype before Christmas: are markets overrated?

With most Christmas markets now up and attracting the crowds, some of us are left wondering; are they really worth the hype?

Dasha Romanova
1st December 2021
Image Credit: chriswanders, Pixabay
If you type "Christmas Markets" into a search engine, before you’re greeted with lists, hierarchies and enticement,  the results feature a headline reading: “world-famous Christmas market cancelled - here’s three you can visit instead”. It’s easy to imagine the panic that such a cancellation would have caused; an image of scrambling, festive jumper-wearing bodies in a frenzy, desperate for that next festive fix, springs to mind.

There is such a demand that the media feel the need to suggest not one, but three alternatives, and the fascination has grown as far as lengthy bucket lists of locations and some even travelling to markets in other countries. It may lead you to question: are Christmas markets overrated?

Christmas Markets are packed full of stalls offering festive gifts made by small businesses. Image credit: Humphrey Muleba, Pexels.

In Europe, more specifically the German-speaking parts of Europe, Christmas markets in their original form began in the 15th century. They intertwined the nativity scene with cultural staples, beginning the lead up to Christmas with a community-centred event at the beginning of advent. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the UK adopted this tradition, with attempts to keep it true to its origins. Lincoln, where this began, was twinned with a German city named Neustadt and thus had the guidance of authentic, German voices as they embarked to mimic their Christmas markets. 

From the humble 20 stalls that began the tradition, larger cities within the UK have now hit the 300 mark, with most of them possessing frankly very thin connections to their German lineage. Considering how far UK markets have spread and the unavoidable focus on revenue that seems to now shadow all festive celebrations, perhaps a tendency to avoid them is not completely unfounded. However, in recent years, there has been a move toward small business stalls, which result in more personal, thoughtful gifts. As well as this, the food is a prime attraction at Christmas markets and makes the outing not only a shopping experience but an evening-long event that you can bring practically anyone along to. Whether a bratwurst enthusiast, a “pro” ice skater or a child still enthralled by all things Christmas, it’s something that brings everyone together.

It is not so much about the stalls, in the end, but the atmosphere and the people you attend with. 

There is a lot of hype surrounding Christmas markets and, while some is extreme, on the whole, it is a great way to begin celebrating the festive season. It is not so much about the stalls, in the end, but the atmosphere and the people you attend with. 

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