While North America preps for the holidays with retail blowouts, Europe primps for Christmas with street markets full of twinkly lights, handicrafts and tasty eats. But Vancouverites are lucky. We get to partake in both new world and old world festivities now that the German-style Vancouver Christmas Market is open daily in Queen Elizabeth Square.
Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkts, are a 700-year -old tradition that originate in German-speaking regions of Europe. When you browse the 45+ vendors, scope the massive Tannenbaum and sample the array of superb eats at The Vancouver Christmas Market, I’m sure you’ll join me in saying a hearty: Ja, bitte!
Holiday crafts and decorations
The Vancouver Christmas Market has the full gamut of intricate German handicrafts for sale. Local artisans like Braden Hammond, with his hand-blown glass ornaments, hawk their wares alongside high profile German imports like Käthe Wohlfahrt. You can also shop for carved nutcrackers (Nussknacker) and wooden toys. Of all the decorative, seasonal goodies, my favourite is the tiered Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide), which is similar to a carousel with each level containing a detailed scene. You light the candles on the lower level and the hot air spins the propeller perched on top.
If I’m cut off while typing this, it’s because I shorted out my keyboard with drool. On the savoury side of the street, take your pick from juicy, roast pig knuckles, fresh-baked, soft pretzels (Bretzeln), bratwurst, currywurst, thick, rolled noodles (Schupfnudeln) with bacon and cabbage, plump, rotisserie chicken and even pungent Swiss raclette.
There are even more sweet options: candied, toasted almonds (Gebrannte Mandeln), stuffed, baked apples with thick vanilla sauce (Brataepfel), waffles on a stick, Stollen, gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen) and marzipan from Nuremburg—where the treat was invented.
Most are familiar with Glühwein, spiced mulled wine served warm, sometimes with currants or diced apples. It’s classic and irresistible. I was even more excited when I learned about Feuerzangenbowle, which translates literally to “fire-tongs punch.” In this traditional German alcoholic drink, a sugar cube is flambéed with rum, dripping caramel into the mulled wine. It’s a ritual each time they make it.
For those who can’t or don’t: the virgin versions of German Christmas drinks are just as fantastic. For the brew crew, there’s also a hut with Munich’s Paulaner on tap.
Just for kids
This title is a bit misleading. The kids activities were so tempting, I checked to see if adults can play too, and we can. The Vancouver Christmas Market has a gorgeous, full-sized carousel which is new this year. There’s also hands-on decorating stands for gingerbread cookies, chocolate lollipops and holiday candles. Santa photo opps are available. For the full entertainment schedule, check out the website.
The Vancouver Christmas Market is open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. now through Dec. 23; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 24. Ticket prices vary, ranging from $5 to free depending on age and time of entry. Get more details here.