Sparking the Holiday Spirit: German Christmas Markets Open for 2012 Season

Between 3 billion and 5 billion euros are spent each year at Germany's traditional Christmas markets, which date back to the Middle Ages. But business aside, 'tis the season to be jolly -- and out in the cold clutching a hot cup of mulled wine.

Photo Gallery: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Photos
DPA

In Germany, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. That means plenty of sweets and millions of liters of mulled wine served up at Christmas markets, the epicenter of the country's holiday season, which began opening nationwide on Monday.

The traditional markets date back as early as the 13th century in the German-speaking world. Nowadays, some 2,500 markets nationwide create upwards of 180,000 jobs annually for the duration of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

Revenue for the Christmas market industry is difficult to measure, but analysts estimate the figure hovers somewhere been €3 billion and €5 billion each year.

Indeed, holiday traditions and treats are big business in Germany. The market research institute Nielsen reports that during the winter season of 2010 to 2011, more than €94 million were spent on chocolate Weihnachstmann, or Santa Claus figures alone.

The most famous markets in Germany are found in Nuremberg and Dresden. But Christmas markets scattered across the country offer something for everyone -- be it Berlin's upscale Gendarmenmarkt, Cologne's medieval-themed market, an "erotic" one catered to adults in Hamburg's fabled St. Pauli pleasure district, or even a market in the capital with discounted prices aimed at the long-term unemployed.

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