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Almost every German city celebrates the holiday season with a traditional Christmas market. These markets, dating back to the 14th century, originally provided food and practical supplies for the cold winter season. But soon the markets became a beloved holiday tradition and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. While you're there, enjoy these must-try sweets and winter drinks.
Use our guides to find the best markets in the country and get the most out of your visit.
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From the Christmas tree to the Christmas market, it's all German. Many of the most beloved Christmas traditions come from Germany and are now celebrated around the world. Germany is the home of Christmas.
Read about the most beloved holiday customs here, from more unfamiliar customs Nikolaustag (December 6th) and the advent wreath lit with a new candle every Sunday, to favorites like the Christmas Tree.
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Kitchens are warm and cozy each November as they turn out tray after tray of delicious cookies. Baking is serious business in Germany, and during Christmas it seems like absolutely everyone is baking.
Advent cookies or Plätzchen are endlessly baked and exchanged so your cookie jar will runneth over in season. Practice your baking, and the phrase "Hier riecht es nach Weihnachten!" (It smells like Christmas in here!).
A few of the favorites:
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- Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen - German gingerbread is renowned around the world and comes in a variety of styles and spices. Make your own and craft a unique Lebkuchenhaus (Gingerbread House).
- Vanillekipferln - "Vanilla crescents" are a shortbread made with ground hazelnuts and vanilla sugar.
- Zimtsterne - Delicious 6-pointed "cinnamon stars" are an essential element in holiday baking. They celebrate the once elusively expensive spice of cinnamon and pair it with almonds.
- Butterplätzchen - Butter cookies that can be enjoyed all year, but are shaped like stars, bells, moons and Christmas trees for the holidays
- Scharzweiβ Gebäck - These intricate looking black and white cookies appear like a checkerboard.
- Heidesand - The name resembles its texture, crumbly like baked sand
- Helle Linzer Plaetzchen - Two buttery shortbread cookies are sandwiched together with jam to make these festive cookies.
- Makronen - Known in English as "macaroons", these traditional German Christmas cookies date back to the 18th century.
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Christmas Shopping in Germany
The German Christmas markets are full of goods for sale - some handcrafted, some not - but that is not your only option. Whether you are looking for homemade Christmas decorations and gifts, hunting down designer bargains, or want to soak up some atmosphere in Germany's illuminated shopping streets, check out our helpful resources for your German shopping spree.
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While over the border in Switzerland gets more attention, Germany is full of fine wintertime activities. From the Alps to the Black Forest, Germany offers many ski resorts and winter sport opportunities to fill your holiday season with crisp air and powdery snow. Whether you are looking for speedy downhill runs or want to enjoy cross-country skiing in picturesque scenery, German ski resorts won’t disappoint.