Discovering the Medieval Age during Christmas Season

December 19, 2008 Updated: December 19, 2008
People feel a warmth in their hearts despite the winter chill while walking around Munich's Christmas market. (Hans Büchler/The Epoch Times)
People feel a warmth in their hearts despite the winter chill while walking around Munich`s Christmas market. (Hans Büchler/The Epoch Times)

Perusing through the local Christmas markets one might find unexpected items from long ago among the hustle and bustle of the season: a sword, pieces of armor, useful items like eating utensils, a wooden bucket or hand blown glassware. 

On a closer inspection, visitors become aware that the customary plywood market stalls are anything but ordinary. Some have been transformed into knights' tents, others are lovingly constructed from seasoned, hand-hewn wood put together in the style of long-gone eras. Hand carvings in a Gothic or Celtic motif adorn thick wooden beams, and subdued light is visible through "Butzen" style windows.

This is no ordinary Christmas market. It is a firm summer repertoire of several public cultural venues reminiscent of the medieval era. Or at least that is what many take it to be.

There are many people who enjoy this kind of atmosphere and feel comfortable in these surroundings. Most are not after a true representation of actual medieval life. They want a simple diversion from their day-to-day routine, to deepen their knowledge of history or handicrafts, or simply experience what life might have been like then. They enjoy watching a broom/brush maker or bucket maker at work, heft a smith's hammer or construct their own bow and arrow. Some spectators engage in conversations about the sensibility or nonsense about horns used as drinking vessels, or discuss hand-to-hand combat techniques with the antique weapons dealer. And all this knowledge is to be handed down to the next generation during this hands-on opportunity that one seldom finds otherwise.

All this is served up in a way that many mistake for "camp fire lore," but exceeds it in reality. Friendships are established here that last for years. A quest for learning and genuine interest come together and provide a reservoir of information, partly augmented by personal experiences — a tangible history and handicrafts to experience. It is the Medieval Age for a New Age.

So what engenders this romantic feel? It is primarily evident in the many candles, torches and wooden lanterns that light up the area. The offering of goods do their part; miles away from junk and house wares, the articles for sale represent things of beauty one can confidently purchase as a token of enjoyment and comfort for beloved people.

A couple dress as nobles to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the medieval ages. (Hans Büchler/The Epoch Times)
A couple dress as nobles to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the medieval ages. (Hans Büchler/The Epoch Times)
For those who might be inclined to savor a mug of mead (honey wine), or spiced hot wine, or Feuerzangenbowle (a pair of metal tongs holds a rum-soaked sugar loaf that is lit and suspended above a container of warm red wine; the liquefied, sugar-rum mixture drips into the warm wine, imparting additional flavor) will be pleased to find it served in simple ceramic mugs, patterned after archeological designs from earlier centuries. It makes for a fitting end to a lovely day, while enjoying surroundings similar to a world years ago.

This Special "Christmas Market"

Munich was first called "Munichen” in 1158, a name for a place derived from the term "monks."  This is the reason why the state seal from 1339 depicts a monk's head with a pointed hood. Later, confusion and misunderstandings portrayed the monk as a child, which led to the phrase “Münchner Kindl” (Munich child). The word has several connotations, one of which means a person from Munich, and the other refers to a woman with special attributes from that place.

The Christmas markets go back to the late medieval ages, one of them chronicling a 1410 event. The event usually lasts four weeks. On weekends one can find Celtic harp performances and song, Irish fiddlers, Bavarian music box performers, pipers and other performers who make music from the 11th to the 16th century.

Read the original article in German