Mum with child on the Striezelmarkt

It’s that time of year again

Advertisement T he calendar moves inexorably onwards. Christmas is in the air and, as always, Dresden is well prepared. The city spreads out a richly decorative display of gifts and provides a fantastic backdrop against which visitors can immerse themselves in the festive spirit.

Carp with all the trimmings or Wurst with potato salad? Present giving before or after dinner? At Christmas, perhaps more than any other time of year, people are creatures of habit: “The same procedure as every year!” as the catch phrase goes in Germany’s favourite seasonal comedy clip. It’s that time of year again, and there are certain traditions without which it wouldn’t be complete – the vespers sung by the choir of the Kreuzkirche and of course the Striezelmarkt, which has now been held regularly since 1434. The Erzgebirge pyramid may have got a bit taller in recent years and the original Dresdner Christstollen may have become larger and heavier, but it is still the same old regional specialties such as Erzgebirge woodwork, Lausitzer Blaudruck cloth and Herrnhut Stars that predominate on the gaily decorated market stalls on the Altmarkt. And eventually, amidst twinkling lights, the smell of gingerbread and the enigmatic smile of the Pflaumentoffel (‘plum man’), we break out the mulled wine.

On the Saturday before the second Sunday in Advent, tens of thousands of people celebrate the Stollenfest, applauding the Dresden Stollenmädchen as she leads the historic parade through the city centre. The Striezelmarkt has long ceased to be a singularity. Over the years, eleven more markets – each with a slightly different character – have grown up on the adjacent streets and squares, contributing to the festive atmosphere and turning the metropolis on the Elbe into Germany’s Christmas capital. No matter whether you are promenading outside the Frauenkirche on the Neumarkt or in front of the Residenzschloss with its famous collections, at the medieval-themed market in the Stallhof or on the Neustädter Hauptstrasse on the other side of the Elbe, you will be suffused with the Christmas magic that has captivated generations. Yet despite all this diversity, no visitor is obliged to renounce his or her own rituals.