Dresden: Germany’s oldest Christmas market
The market in Dresden lovingly referred to as the “Striezelmarkt,” is considered the oldest in Germany. First mentioned in 1434, it received its name for the local specialty “Striezel” or “Stollen,” a type of bread-like sweetcake made around Christmas time.
Bakers began baking Stollen in the 16th century and would give one or two 36-pound cakes to the local prince during Christmas time. These cakes were carried ceremoniously to the castle and cut by a knife over five feet long, a tradition that has been reenacted since 1994, when the city introduced its annual Stollen festival.
These days, at 3,500 kg, the Stollen is larger than those medieval bakers might have been able to imagine. It is divided to feed people from throughout the area. This year’s Stollen festival will take place on December 7.
The market began as a place to buy meat for Christmas festivities and was officially decreed by Prince Friedrich II and his brother Duke Sigismund in 1434.
Throughout the years, the princes of Dresden would give out Stollen to the poor and the sick at Christmas, saying, “a white bread for the poor people at Christmas” and “a bread of Christ for the sick.”
The Monday on which the price distributed his gift to the poor was later called “Striezelmontag” or Stollen-Monday. Today, Dresden boasts another superlative among Christmas markets — the world’s largest Christmas pyramid. At 14 meters, it towers above the market and features 42 different wooden figurines
In the 17th century, tradesmen increasingly complained about competition from non-local salesmen. In 1698, however, Prince August the Strong gave tradesmen from outside of the immediate area the right to trade on the Dresden market, noting the variety that accompanied the addition of non-local goods.
It was also during this time that the famous Meißner porcelain manufacturers of Saxony brought their delicate toys and dolls to the market for the city’s children.
Children have long played an important part at the market, initially as salespeople. But by 1910, children were no longer allowed to sell wares on the market.
Data and facts
The Striezelmarket is open from 24 November to 24 December 2005.
The market will open at 3 p.m. with an ecumenical service in the Kreuzkirche church which is also the venue of many other festive events.
At 11 o’clock that morning bakers from Dresden will be carrying a giant fruit cake weighing approximately three tonnes in a procession from the Baroque Zwinger to the Striezelmarkt Christmas market at Altmarkt.
The largest Christmas pyramid of the world with a record height of 14 metres is in the centre of the market. And the residents of Dresden and their guests will be celebrating the pyramid festival with a Christmas carol competition on saturday of the weekend of the third Advent Sunday in front of the giant pyramid.
More details and information: Striezelmarkt Christmas market or www.dresden-tourist.de or by phoning 0351 – 49 19 22 22
author: German News
Foto Semperoper: Christoph Münch