Christmas Markets The Business Behind Christmas Markets

Twenty-five hundred Christmas markets have been set up in Germany, each with its very own microcosm of the larger economy: Some workers toil for dumping prices, and big business scoops up millions. The business is kept under close scrutiny by powerful associations and politicians. It's still a vibrant part of the German experience.
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Angelo Motta has been selling his trinkets at the Mönckebergstrasse Christmas market in Hamburg for 39 years. The Sicilian initially wanted to be a monk, but then he fell in love with a woman from Hamburg. Though his craft hasn't made him rich, he says it's made him happy. Says Motta: "Money isn't very important to me".

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While only three of Angelo Motta's trinkets trade hands per day, people flock to the shop owned by the "Käthe Wohlfahrt" chain in droves. The Christmas trinket wholesaler has its own shop at the Hamburg Town Hall market. Customers load their shopping baskets with Christmas tree ornaments, wooden figures and tinsel. The company has stalls in 33 markets across Germany.

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Käthe und Wilhelm Wohlfahrt with the music box that started it all: 46 years ago, friends visiting from the US fell in love with the music box. Their visitors gave the machine operator and his wife the idea to trade in Christmas trinkets. Today, the family-run business hires 230 employees off season, and 1,000 around Christmas. Their son Harald has since taken over the business.

Foto: Claus_Felix/ picture-alliance / dpa
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Käthe Wohlfahrt also run a stand in Kassel's Christmas market. The market on Königsplatz (or "King's Square") boasts "the largest Christmas pyramid in the world."

Foto: Uwe Zucchi/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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The Dortmund market is also engaged in the competition for superlatives. They pride themselves on owning the largest Christmas tree in the world, made up of 1,700 red fir trees from the forests in the nearby Sauerland region. At 45 meters (147 feet) in height, it weighs an astounding 30 tons. The colossus is lit up by 40,000 lights, and its crowning angel weighs 200 kilos (440 pounds) all by itself.

Foto: Bernd Thissen/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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Just around the corner from the giant tree, Hans Peter Arens roasts ham. The trade has been passed down four generations in his family: Arens' great-grandfather was also a showman and Christmas market seller. Arens is the president of the Association of Showmen and Market Salesmen. He also organizes the market in Dortmund and decides who gets to have a stand and who must stay outside.

Foto: Jan Heinze
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Dresden in eastern Germany is home to one of the country's oldest and most famous Christmas markets, established in 1434. The Striezelmarket sells slices of the the world's biggest Stollen fruit cake, which is also the local Christmas specialty. This year's cake weighed 5,149 pounds (2,336 kilos).

Foto: DDP
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The Christmas market in Mainz has stuck to its traditions since it was established 200 years ago, and kept a close eye on inflation as well: This year a cup of mulled wine costs between 1.50 and 2 euros ($2.21 to $2.94).

Foto: DDP
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Each year the Nuremberg Christmas market draws more than 2 million visitors from around the world. Each year the city selects a "Christ child" to open the festivities. It is a popular holiday destination for Japanese tourists, many of whom delight in the "Christmas Pass" -- a coupon booklet with discounts on mulled wine and a signed autograph from the "Christ Child".

Foto: DPA
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Though Bavarians have a reputation amongst Germans for being conservative, Munich is home to the first-ever gay Christmas Market. "Pink Christmas" was established 4 years ago in the city's Glockenbach neighborhood.

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Christmas in drag: The gay Christmas market is located on Munich's Stephansplatz square.