The Christmas markets represent an enchanted place where you immediately enter the full Christmas atmosphere.
Walking among the characteristic wooden houses full of lights and colors, ribbons and packages, perhaps even enjoying a good glass of mulled wine immediately creates that particular magic that characterizes Christmas time.
For children it is pure joy, considering that there are often initiatives created specifically for the little ones: from Santa Claus' house to shows featuring Disney characters and fairy tales.
For adults, the markets are an opportunity to buy something original, but above all they represent a moment of detachment from everyday life that allows you to dream and go back to being a child for a while.
In the modernity of our times, the unchanged charm of the Christmas markets is enriched by awareness, by that green note which is synonymous with respect for the planet; a concept antagonistic to the consumerism of recent decades and certainly a concept more in keeping with the essence of the Christmas holiday.
Where the tradition of Christmas markets was born
The idea of a Christmas market was born around the 15th century, mainly in Germany and France. Originally, these were real fairs where craft objects were exhibited which, at that time, were very expensive and not easily accessible to everyone.
The first written record of a Christmas market dates back to 1434 in Dresden. From it we can deduce that on the Monday before Christmas Day a market called Striezelmarkt would take place. Later, this name was changed to Christkindlmarkt or "the baby Jesus market", the name with which the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria are still referred to today.
The one in Dresden is not the only Christmas market of the past of which there is evidence; in fact, historical documents also report the market in Strasbourg in 1570 and that in Nuremberg in 1628.
The spread of Christmas markets in most European cities as we know them today only arrived in the 90s of the last century. Not only do they finally become accessible to all, but above all they are transformed into a tourist attraction not to be missed and a great opportunity for local artisans and producers.
In Europe, among the most famous Christmas markets, in addition to the historic ones already mentioned, we also find those in Vienna, Zurich, Cologne, Augsburg and Paris. In Italy, among the oldest and certainly worth visiting are those of Bolzano and Trento.
What is meant by green Christmas markets
Green events are all the rage today, but what does being green actually mean for a Christmas market?
The green character of a Christmas market starts first of all from the products that stalls offer to the public which today tend to be increasingly sustainable, natural, organic and handmade.
It ranges, therefore, from food and wine with typical zero-mile seasonal products to cosmetic and personal care products, passing through local craftsmanship which is not only unique as an expression of a territory, but which today expresses a marked sensitivity in the choice of natural materials (including wood, ceramic, glass and fabrics), biodegradable or recycled.
Another aspect for which a Christmas market can be considered sustainable concerns the organization of the event itself. Attention to energy consumption with the use of LED lights for greater savings or with the exploitation of energy from solar panels or other green sources.
And again, in the case of stands dedicated to food, sustainability also involves drastically reducing the amount of waste produced during the event or at least limiting its environmental impact. Hence the identification of areas intended for recycling and the incentive in the use of non-disposable but reusable or eco-compatible tableware and containers.
Where are the most sustainable Christmas markets in Central Europe
Year after year more and more Christmas markets tend to take on green features. Some have certifications that attest to how they are made respecting certain environmental protection criteria such as energy efficiency, waste management and sustainable mobility.
For example, many Christmas markets in the South Tyrol area of northern Italy are certified as Green Events. Among them, we remember the Bolzano Christmas market and the Merano Christmas market.
The Christmas market in Trento is, however, totally powered by green energy produced by the hydroelectric power plants of the Dolomites and is also characterized by many eco-friendly initiatives in the sectors of low-impact mobility, the valorisation of 0 km products, incentive to use washable or compostable tableware and separate waste collection. Furthermore, all information material (such as maps and brochures) are made from FSC eco-certified paper with low impact on the environment.
In many cities in Central Europe, it is worth visiting several Christmas markets that make green their strong point.
The Advent Feast at the Basilica di Budapest, twice elected "the best Christmas market in Europe", presents a program full of charity concerts and a focus on environmental sustainability which translates into the recycling of surplus food and the use of ecological cutlery, cups and glasses.
The Brussels Christmas market has a strong green vocation. Among the many initiatives implemented to protect the environment, it is important to remember that only LED bulbs are used for lighting, the Christmas tree is recycled, creating works of art and everyday objects such as benches and tables., reusable food containers, glasses and crockery are used, a system for the recovery and redistribution of food surpluses has been established, better separate waste collection for plastic and metals has been implemented and a new technology has been adopted for "dry toilets".
Finally, the city of Berlin which in the pre-Christmas period offers:
- The Ecological Christmas market in Sophienstraße which for more than 20 years has been offering artisanal design objects as well as organic, natural and fair trade products in a spirit of collective support for social projects by traders and start-ups.
- The Vegan Christmas Market at Fehrbelliner Platz on the other hand, is totally oriented towards the vegan world. Present in the city since 2018, plastic Christmas decorations as well as disposable tableware are banned at the vegan Christmas market. The market offers ethical gifts ranging from local crafts to vegan cosmetics. From a gastronomic point of view, it is possible to try many strictly vegan specialties such as organic burgers, typical German sausages (bratwurst) and mulled wine.