The festive season is well and truly upon us, bringing with it the aromatic scent of mulled wine and spices, carol singing and of course, the Vancouver Christmas Market.
Many of us have already indulged in the city’s most popular yuletide attraction, and for those of you who have yet to visit our Winter Wonderland, what are you waiting for?
We’ve been bringing this 700-year-old tradition to the streets of Vancouver for eight years and it’s quickly become an annual ritual for many households across the Lower Mainland.
But have you ever wondered how the Vancouver Christmas Market got its start?
We caught up with our director and founder, Malte Kluetz, to tell you all about the market’s beginnings.
1. What made you want to start Vancouver Christmas Market?
I missed the Christmas markets I visited while growing up in Germany. I’m originally from a small town called Hamelin and I grew up meeting friends and family at the market. I longed for that experience – one I could not transport easily with me, so I decided to start my own. It’s exciting to see local people enjoying the same things I loved back home here at Vancouver Christmas Market, and now it’s a tradition for Vancouverites and their families.
2. What are your favourite Christmas traditions?
What first comes to mind is Christmas Eve when we were kids. We were very excited and could hardly wait to get into the living room where the tree was beautifully decorated and the presents were laid out. In Germany, it is tradition to ring a bell to let the children know that the presents are ready so either my mother or grandmother would ring it and that meant we could go finally go in and unwrap our gifts and see what Santa brought us. There would be Christmas music playing on the turntable and the lights would be twinkling beautifully. The family would all sit around the tree, eating and drinking festive treats, as the kids would enter the room. There was always a feeling of magical anticipation.
3. How is Christmas celebrated differently in Germany?
In Germany, the festivities start early with Advent – the season celebrated in anticipation of Christmas. Most families have an ‘advent kranz’ or advent wreath made of fir branches and four candles. Families would gather around the wreath each Advent Sunday to light a candle and sing Christmas carols. That was always very festive and really built the excitement because each week when another candle was lit, we knew Christmas was inching even closer. Germans also enjoy some unique treats at Christmas. Growing up, the house always smelled of ‘stollen’, a mouth-watering fruitcake that my mother would always bake. It’s a delicious bread-like loaf crammed with dried berries and butter, made from a recipe that dates back 500 years. We would eat mountains of it as children.
4. Are there any Christmas traditions you have held onto since your childhood in Germany?
In Germany, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve as it marks the end of Advent. Many people spend the afternoon and evening decorating the tree, attending a church service, eating traditional food and of course, opening presents. We try to keep that going, but we are adjusting to the preferences of our kids and grandchildren to celebrate the morning of the 25th. Now, it’s almost as if we have two Christmas days in our family! For me personally, it’s all about family coming together. Now that we have our grandkids we get to relive the excitement every year.
5. How does the Vancouver Christmas Market compare to those in Germany?
The idea was to create a market that was original and authentic. The thousands of markets across Germany all have their own special styles from the medieval to the contemporary. We tried to bring the feeling of old Europe to North America as much as possible. Before bringing the market here, I travelled to Christmas markets all across Germany pulling the best pieces and ideas I could from each.
6. Why are Christmas Markets so globally appealing?
Summers are full of outdoor festivals – you can go to multiple every weekend, but in winter, we tend to get stuck inside. Part of the Christmas season is also about experiencing the elements; it’s cold and snowy. So you go out and have this medieval, winter wonderland experience with the huts, the smells, the lights, the shopping, the food and the friends all warming you up with a buzz of activity. Coming together as a community to bring some light to winter is appealing no matter where you are in the world.
7. What are your favourite things to do at the Market?
There is so much to experience at the Vancouver Christmas Market! I recommend purchasing a season pass so you can come back as many times as you like. Everyone should visit our new Walk-In Christmas Tree, shop the market for that special gift, and be sure to try Glühwein – a traditional, hot-spiced German mulled wine. The smell instantly takes me back to the Christmas Markets in Germany.