Fewer places in Europe seem to embrace Christmas as enthusiastically as Cologne. One event held in this charming German city at the end of November this year (2014) would certainly suggest this to be true…
Contrary to the exuberance expected at that particular festive event (or maybe something was lost in translation), Cologne’s famous Christmas markets seem to focus less on excessive consumerism and more on excessive festivities. Of course there was a certain level of encouragement put upon me to part with my cash at some of Cologne’s many seasonal stalls on my visit to the city earlier in December (2014). But so much effort was put into the look and feel of these charming markets, one almost felt that the consumerist element was merely incidental.
The main purpose of these markets seemed to be to get everyone into the festive mood and to just have fun. They certainly succeeded in achieving this. There was no animosity in the crowds, nor any ‘Black Friday’ style pushing or shoving. Everyone seemed relaxed, friendly and having a jolly time soaking up the festive atmosphere created under thousands of tasteful fairy lights and charming seasonal decor. Not a speck of tackiness nor kitsch in sight. The Kölner Altstadt ‘Heimat der Heinzel’ (Cologne Old Town ‘Home of the Elves’) near Heumarkt was a particularly delightful market creating such an atmosphere.
The Markt der Engel (Market of Angels) at Neumarkt was just as charming …
… full of delightful ‘angel’ huts selling all kinds of items …
… but the items on sale were not the usual overpriced high street goods or ‘must haves’ that lack imagination and taste. Instead, the goods were hand-crafted, unique, charming and unusual:
The unusual was certainly a trait of the Market of Angels. The market’s centrepiece nativity scene proved that point:
The Hänneschen-Theater is legendary in Cologne. Since 1802 this local theatre company has been staging performances in the city using traditional string puppets which locals have held in great fondness for generations due to the puppets’ uncanny likeness to the locals. Some of the more popular characters are incorporated into the annual Hänneschen-Theater nativity scene to create an entertaining and rather unique portrayal of the first Christmas night.
The Market of Angels wasn’t the only Christmas market in Cologne with an interesting take on the nativity.
The Village of St Nicholas had everything associated with Santa Claus that one would care to buy and enjoy, apart from one vital element …
I looked everywhere for Santa but there was absolutely no sign of him anywhere at the Village of St. Nicholas. Well, it is understandable. He’s a very busy chap this time of year.
Sadly, not all the Christmas markets in Cologne were as quaint or as endearing.
Cologne has a further advantage of a rich architectural heritage to stage the perfect Christmas market in. Historical monuments and buildings are not overshadowed by the decorations and fairy lights, rather they are enhanced and provide a stunning backdrop to the markets. The Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas Market at the Cathedral of Cologne) at the foot of Cologne’s famous cathedral lights up the colossal gothic building in a magical Christmas glow from the canopy of fairly lights draping the market.
Évora … the Portuguese city where Christmas is celebrated all year round
Celebrating Christmas in Brussels with ‘Game of Thrones’ style nativites, rubbish carousels and the Funny Christmas Ice Monster?
Lofty heights and love locks in and around Cologne’s stunning cathedral: the Köhler Dom
Rotterdam: art, architecture and a rather cheeky statue of Santa Claus