The far east Erzebirge region of Germany, tucked next to the Czech border, has been making wooden Christmas decorations for centuries. When the Iron Curtain came down, these workshops came back on the scene and are now the source of nearly all the quality wooden Christmas things. Handmade quality pieces take a lot of time to create, so they cost a lot – no, more than that. It’s up to you to determine if the ‘Made in Germany’ stamp is worth the premium.
Buy the entire nativity scene, the basic crib-crêche-nativity trio or augment the one at home with some hand-carved camels, donkeys or sheep.
Rauchmannherstellung (Incense smoking man)
These ‘German smokers’ are a Christmas staple round these parts and make a fantastic, unique addition to the regular holiday decorations put up back home.
Wiehnachtspyramide (Christmas pyramids)
Christmas pyramids are a nice, serene antidote to robot Santas bleating out ‘Jingle Bells’ every time someone walks past. The heat from the candles makes the propeller spin, so no batteries are required.
What would a Christmas market be without a myriad of Christmas tree ornaments. Most wooden ones are laser cut from thin plywood rather than hand carved, so they’re affordable enough to stock up on, and some glass ornaments are even mouth-blown. Germans still put real candles on their trees, so all the accoutrements for doing so at home can be found at the markets as well.
What better than an authentic homemade mug to enjoy a classic, warming gluhwein (mulled wine) in?
Anyone walking around residential neighbourhoods between Advent and Epiphany will see these staple Christmas stars shining through most front windows. Just be sure to tell the vendor if you want the light as well as the star and they are usually not included.
There are easier ways to relieve a nut of its case, but few have inspired entire ballets or, indeed, an entire holiday aesthetic. Markets will typically have a large variety of nutcrackers, but note that handmade ones are expensive and are usually used more as a holiday statues than appliances.
What not to buy: lebkuchen cookies
Just don’t get these gingerbread cookies. They may look delicious but taste like cardboard. Alternatively, lebkuchen make for good decoration as they last a long time and can withstand a fair share of abuse in a suitcase.