Deck the halls for a festive winter wonderland this year as you sip hot chocolate, double down on gingerbread of all yummy shapes and sizes, sing delightful new and classic yuletide holiday staples –

and yes, find some tinsel-tastic decorations to string around your tree. You’ll sing “O Tannenbaum” to your heart’s content as you navigate through Nuremberg’s bustling Christmas Market (“Christkindlesmarkt”). One of the largest and most popular markets in all of Europe, you’re sure to have a jolly good time rekindling Old World traditions and carrying back a few as special souvenirs.

Christmas Markets are one of Germany’s brightest and merriest customs – and one of its longest running ones too. Each city puts its own unique and sometimes quirky spin on them (sometimes several different spins). But Nuremburg’s markets always take center stage. They’re a bit like the holidays themselves – a gift that keeps giving.

Dating back to at least the early 1600s, with the first record of it in 1628, the Nuremberg Market draws in both locals and tourists from near and far. Over 180 wooden booths, blanketed with red and white striped cloth, offer up artisanal goodies of all kinds. One of the most notable are the Prune Men and Women. Hundreds of years before Barbie, GI Joe and iPads were available, kids would play with these figures, made with wire, walnuts for heads and dried prunes for bodies. They come in hundreds of action poses -- kissing couples, cooks and waiters, skateboarders and piano players. An old Nuremberg saying goes “With a prune man in your house, money and happiness stay, too.” Often presumed to have been invented here, these figurines can be found throughout many of Germany’s markets and are a national toy craze that has lasted through the centuries.

Visitors can take another kind of nostalgic trip through the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt with a horse-drawn ride in a stagecoach. Sip warm cocoa mulled wine as you listen to holiday music and cozy up in scarfs and blankets because as Dean Martin once crooned, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Music is performed live on stage, as opposed to being piped through speakers, to encourage a quaint feeling of years ago. Plastic decorations and machine manufactured gifts are banned. Only fresh pine boughs here and handmade crafts. Along with the Prune Figures, favorite gifts include Schwibbogen candle stands with yuletide artwork and Springerle biscuits, a Nuremberg specialty cookie that are almost too beautiful to eat and are often used to decorate the tree. And of course, figurines of the Christkind – the angel that is thought to bring gifts to children in Germany on Christmas Eve. Since the 30s, always splayed

An old-fashioned carousel, ferris wheel, steam train and nativity scene trail are other can’t-miss spots while you’re here. And a sighting of the angelic Christkind, played by a blonde-haired young woman in a magnificent gold and white robe, will warm your heart as much as the second helping of strudel. The Christkind opens the market with a grand party on the first night and then greets visitors in the weeks that follow.

Merry Christmas – or as you might want to exclaim when you arrive “Frohe Weihnachten!”

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