Christmas Market 1960

The Golden Hall

History of the Christmal Market

Over five-hundred years ago the “Lebzelter” (gingerbread makers) held a market in Augsburg shortly before Christmas. Soon quarreling among the participants became so intense that the topic was brought up at a meeting of the city council on December 22, 1498. Evidently the council wanted to be rid of future dissension (disagreements about booth bookings), and hence the city provided uniform booths for all by the drawing of lots. This information documents a proper market with numerous uniform booths.

In 1538 city council forbid the practice of “Lebzeltenstreiche” (pranks); however, to no avail as seen in a later account around 1600. On the day of the “innocent children” (12/28) young journeymen roamed about with rods and slapped them against the legs of virgins, as it was called then, “for the Lebkuchen (gingerbread).” Hitting the girls’ calves with rods was supposed to bring the young ladies luck. According to custom the swinger of the rod expected gingerbread in return. Apparently the tradition got out of hand and caused city council to declare its prohibition in 1538. But there are still reports of this custom in 1760/1770. The tradition of teasing young women for gingerbread continued.

The Christmas markets, also the one in Augsburg, flourished after the Reformation as Martin Luther introduced new customs. Among other things he advocated that children receive gifts “from the holy Christ child” and no longer from St. Nickolas on December 6 or from St. Martin on November 11 as was the custom at that time. And so the distribution of gifts on Christmas Eve became an established custom by Protestants. As a result, the selection of goods increased at Christmas markets.

During the Baroque period it was considered fashionable to give children dolls and toys made of clay, but also Christmas items and sweets became more and more popular. And so these things also found their places in the booths of the Christmas market. In the middle of the past century bazaars were suddenly in great demand, perhaps also because they were usually held in the great halls of restaurants and thus allowed visitors the chance to warm themselves a bit.

The Augsburg “Christkindlesmarkt” was also not always located in front of City Hall. It moved about with time, once even to the outskirts of the city. More details about the various locations at which the Augsburg “Christkindlesmarkt” has taken place are noted in the chronicles.