Delighting in Germany’s Christmas markets in my Colorado home

Evoke the warmth and good tidings of the Old Country by celebrating Germany’s traditions at home – beginning with Glühwein! 

Cheers! Mugs of steaming Glühwein, or hot chocolate if you prefer, abound at Germany’s Christmas markets.

I close my eyes and breathe in the aroma of cinnamon from my porcelain Christmas mug filled to the brim with steaming hot Glühwein, Germany’s official holiday grog. I take that first sip and savor the spice-laden mulled wine, fragrant with the aroma of oranges and cloves. The scent alone brings back memories of strolling cobble-stoned streets of Germany’s picturesque Christmas markets, where rosy-cheeked children snuggle in their woolens, castles glisten with fresh snow, and Saint Nicholas greets visitors.  

The town square in Gengenbach, a village in the south of Germany, sparkles during the holidays. Photo credit: H. Grimmig

Transport yourself, virtually, into a yuletide holiday card come to life. 

In the midst of the pandemic with no travel on the horizon, and holidays that will be decidedly low-key, I’m re-creating my own German holiday right here in my Colorado home. A children’s choir sings Silent Night and my tree is adorned with cherished family ornaments passed down from generations. A fire crackles in the fireplace and the candles are lit. My own Saint Nicholas figurine graces the coffee table. I am daydreaming about a ten-day trip I took more than a decade ago touring Germany’s Christmas markets. 

Christmas markets through the centuries – little has changed 

From the beginning of Advent through Christmas Eve, main squares in towns throughout cities and countryside villages in Germany transform into festive seasonal fairs.  Germany’s Christmas markets date to the 14th century. Temporary wooden stalls were set up near the villages’ largest church so that bakers, toy makers, and woodcarvers could sell their wares to passers-by. Attending church was a daily ritual, hence the strategic location. Little has changed through the centuries, and you’ll still find toy trains, wooden Hansel’s and Gretel’s, and winged-golf-foil angels.  Women stroll arm in arm; couples push baby carriages piled high with feather-filled coverlets; and children nibble on freshly baked gingerbread cookies. 

Gold-winged angels are on display
everyone at Germany’s Christmas markets.

Bringing traditions of the Old Country into my home 

Due to COVID, the Christmas markets are closed this year, but I’m bringing Germany into my home.  And I’m planning my visit for next year. Meanwhile, I treasure the memories, photos, and most of all the warm feelings of the season. 

A baker displays his creation at a German Christmas market. The translation for Wir sind süden is “We are South,” referring to the southern part Germany. Photo courtesy of Tourism Marketing Baden-Wuerttemberg

I’m stuck at home physically, but my mind doesn’t have to be. I take another sip of Glühwein and picture myself strolling the medieval cobble-stoned path of a countryside village as church bells ring, a brass band plays and bratwursts sizzle on the grill.  It’s a getaway for my mind. 

Sweets create a lovely aroma at Germany’s Christmas markets.

  Visiting Southwest Germany 

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Recipe for Glühwein 


  • 1/2 medium orange 
  • 3/4 cup water 
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 20 whole cloves 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks 
  • 2 whole star anise 
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine 
  • Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional) 

Remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the pith and set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside. Combine water and sugar in a large saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce heat and add the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms, or about one minute. 

 Reduce the heat and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes. Keep an eye out so that it doesn’t reach a full simmer. Strain and serve in mugs, adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.  You may wish to cut the recipe accordingly, (or not!) since we are all social distancing in small groups. 

Pro-tip: Heat gently, but don’t boil 

Heat (but don’t boil) the mixture for about 20 minutes before you are ready for the first sip.  You don’t want to boil away the wine. Cheers! 

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