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Strasbourg Christmas Market 2021

After Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Capital of Christmas will once again be full of holiday cheer from November 26th to December 26th, 2021. This year marks the beginning of a new era in the city’s Christmas tradition, whose “Christ child market” (Christkindelsmärik in Alsatian) dates back to 1570.

As Christmas time approaches, Strasbourg dons its gay apparel. In the market squares around town, the enticing scents of mulled wine, baked sweet treats, and savory tarte flambée fill the alleys between the stalls.

This year, 314 stalls (that look like charming little wooden cabins) spread out over 13 squares in the city center (and set up further apart than previous years) proudly offer local handicrafts and culinary specialties. Place Broglie, place de la Cathédrale, the Carré d’Or and place Kléber are all must-see spots during the holiday season.

Place Broglie

Place Broglie is one of the Christmas market’s most historical areas. This year, in addition to the market stalls, a video mapping show called “L’HĂ´tel des Contes” (the fairytale hotel) will be projected on the façade of City Hall (l’HĂ´tel de Ville), presenting the legend of the Christkindel (the Christ child), as well as the story of Saint Nicholas.

When he was a little boy, JĂ©rĂ´me would always scarf down a waffle from the La Gaufre Lorraine stall. The waffles were made to order and served right out of the iron, still piping hot. He would bite into the perfectly fluffy and crunchy treat, eating it so quickly he barely had time to warm his hands. The thick layer of powdered sugar covering the little squares on the waffle would always end up on his clothes. Unfortunately, this stand has long since disappeared from place Broglie … but the pleasure of reliving lovely childhood memories remains.

Place de la Cathédrale & place du Château

Nestled at the foot of Strasbourg Cathedral, the place de la CathĂ©drale market is the most iconic in the city. This narrow square, with its little wooden cabins surrounded by charming houses and side streets, and with the Cathedral and the Maison Kammerzell in the background, feels like a bubble of holiday cheer in the middle of town. If you’re looking for the spirit of Christmas, here and in the CarrĂ© d’Or is where you’ll find it.

The Nativity scenes inside the Cathedral are truly remarkable. The Strasbourg crèche from 1907 is 18 meters long and presents 5 scenes, from the Annunciation to the presentation of Jesus at the Temple (open until January 10th, 2022).

Place du Château offers a view of the cathedral from a different angle.

Place Kléber

Place KlĂ©ber is where you’ll find the Great Christmas Tree and the “Solidarity Village” (with stalls for 90 different non-profit organizations).

This year, the decorations on the massive Christmas tree (30 meters tall, 12 meters wide, and weighing 7 tons) are inspired by local ancestral traditions: carved wooden shapes, red and white baubles (a nod to the old tradition of using apples to decorate the tree), and cookie-cutter-like silhouettes reminiscent of Alsatian bredele (little Christmas cookies prepared in large quantities throughout December).

A city of lights

As night falls in Strasbourg, the Christmas lights start to twinkle. 33 kilometers of garlands and hundreds of lights illuminate the city and immerse you in the magic of Christmas.

• The starlit promenade follows this year’s theme, “Allumons les Ă©toiles” (let’s light the stars) and shows off the city’s cultural heritage. The itinerary, which is lined with over 600 stars, runs from Square Louise-Weiss (Petite France) and pont Sainte-Madeleine, stopping by place du MarchĂ© aux Poissons and quai des Bateliers on the way.

• Thanks to decorations created by the city and local business owners, Strasbourg is transformed into a city of lights.

The main decorated route runs from rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons all the way to the Great Christmas Tree in place Kléber.

In rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons, the Porte des Lumières (gate of lights) marks the entrance to the Capital of Christmas.

In rue Mercière, angels with golden trumpets will encourage you to stop by place de la Cathédrale.

The streets of the Carré d’Or (rue des Orfèvres, rue du Sanglier, rue du Chaudron) show themselves in all their splendor. All aglow with warm yellow lights, shimmering garlands, red stars, and golden baubles, this neighborhood brings the enchantment of the season to life in a handful of narrow side streets around the Cathedral.

In rue des Grandes Arcades, alternating glittering baubles and red curtains will lead you to place Kléber and its massive Christmas tree.

In rue des Hallebardes, a row of giant mannele (Alsatian brioche men) light the way to the cathedral and place Gutenberg.

In rue des Tonneliers, you’ll find 22 bright barrel-shaped decorations, in reference to the street’s barrel-making history.

In rue du Maroquin, the decorated restaurant façades are also worth a detour.

Wait, there’s more!

• In Square Louise-Weiss (Petite France), the “Village de l’Avent” (Advent village) workshops invite participants to make Christmas decorations and greeting cards (limited room) from November 27th to December 26th. From December 27th to January 2nd, this space will become the “Village de l’après” (the After village), giving out advice to start the new year off right.

• The marchĂ© Off, or Off market (place Grimmeisen in la Petite France) offers a different approach to the Christmas celebrations, by “giving meaning to your Christmas shopping”. This ethical, fair, and eco-conscious market showcases organic products from either fair-trade networks, co-ops, or independent craftspeople. Here, the wooden cabins have been replaced by industrial containers and a market hall, making for 2 different spaces: one for workshops, activities, and conferences, the other equipped with a bar and a stage for shows.

• Various other events will take place throughout the month: the performance “1,2,3,4… Allumons les Ă©toiles” near the Vauban Dam (every Saturday at 18:00), a flea market (in the Great Hall in l’Aubette), around the world in Christmas traditions (cour Saint-Nicolas), DIY workshops (5e lieu), guided tours, conferences, and concerts.

Explore the full program of festivities and find more information on health and safety measures on the “Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas” website

If you want to experience more of the magic of Christmas, several other Alsatian towns also have a Christmas market: Haguenau, Wissembourg, Saverne, Obernai, Barr, Molsheim, Sélestat, Colmar, Riquewihr…

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Imaginary Christmas market: a recipe from Norway

Since Strasbourg’s world-famous Christmas market is sadly cancelled in 2020, we wondered what it would be like if we simply imagined this year’s market. 

Every year, one country is the market’s guest of honor, and place Gutenberg is filled with stalls selling souvenirs and culinary specialties from that country. In previous years, the guests of honor have been Belgium, Lebanon, Iceland, and many others.

Since Stephanie is Norwegian, we’ve imagined a market with Norway as the guest of honor. On that occasion, we wanted to share a typically Norwegian Christmas tradition with you. Those of you who are familiar with Alsatian Christmas traditions will know the Mannele, or Mannala, which is essentially a little brioche-man (as opposed to a gingerbread-man) enjoyed all through the month of December, but particularly on December 6th, for the feast of Saint Nicholas.

In Norway (and throughout Scandinavia) there is a somewhat similar tradition for making “Lussekatter“, or saffron buns, for the feast of Saint Lucia on December 13th. These very tasty buns have a bright yellow color (from saffron or turmeric) and are traditionally shaped into swirls and spirals. This is done to symbolize light winning over darkness and the sun slowly returning after the gloom of winter.

Just imagine the Norwegian village at the market … the smell of fresh saffron buns, the spicy aroma of gløgg (Norwegian mulled wine), stalls selling risgrøt (rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar, and butter) or smoked salmon, others offering aquavit and Christmas ale, little decorations with gnomes and trolls, traditional wool sweaters and mittens …            

Let’s hope it comes true some day! See you in 2021, for next year’s market. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy this recipe! God Appetitt!

Recipe for LUSSEKATTER or saffron buns

Ingredients:

• 1 to 1,5 g of saffron

• 50 g of fresh yeast 

• 0,5 L of milk

• 150 to 200 g of butter or margarine

• 0,5 teaspoon of salt

• 1-3 dL of sugar

• 1 egg

• About 1,5 L of flour

• Raisins for decorating (optional)

+ 1 egg and a splash of milk for the egg wash

How to make lussekatter:

Grind the saffron to a fine powder.

Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and stir out into a few tablespoons of the milk.

Melt the butter, then add the milk. Gently heat the mixture until tepid (test a drop on your skin, it needs to be tepid to activate the yeast, but too much heat will kill it.). Add the saffron.

Pour the milk and butter over the yeast and stir in the salt, sugar and about half of the flour. Add the rest of the flour a little at a time (you might not need all of it) and knead it in by hand until the dough is nice and smooth. Sprinkle a little flour on top, cover with a tea towel and set to rise in a warm place with no cold draughts until it doubles in size.

Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute, then knead out on a smooth surface where you’ve sprinkled a little flour, until it is smooth and easy to work with.

Cut or rip the dough into smaller parts, then twist, roll or braid different buns. Just remember larger buns will take longer to cook through. Decorate with raisins (optional).

Put the shaped buns on a greased tray and let them rise under a tea towel for another half hour). Lightly paint them with an egg wash.

Cooking time:

Bake at about 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes or more, depending on your oven and the size of the buns. Just keep an eye on them and take them out of the oven when they are golden brown.