Page last updated at 05:55 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Bratwurst and Gluhwein? It must be Christmas

By Katie Dawson
BBC News

German market
Birmingham's Christmas market last year attracted 2.8 million visitors

With the rise of German markets across the country, eating Bratwurst and drinking Gluhwein is fast becoming a staple part of our Christmas experience.

Germany is famous for its Christmas markets, with more than 2,500 across the country.

But you no longer have to hop on a plane to experience them, as German traders head to towns and cities around the UK.

England now boasts what is believed to be the largest authentic German market held outside Germany and Austria.

Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market last year attracted 2.8 million visitors, generating £67m for the local economy.

Organisers are even wondering if it could soon become more popular than the real Frankfurt Christmas market, which attracted three million people last year.

'Big success'

"If we continue to grow at the fast rate we are, we may overtake the Frankfurt market in Frankfurt," said Jennifer Crisp, international officer at Birmingham City Council.

It may be the largest authentic German market in the UK, but Birmingham's homage to Deutschland had humble beginnings.

The market was piloted in 2001 with just 25 stalls. This year boasts a record 180 stands offering a range of traditional German goods, such as Bratwurst sausages and Gluhwein (mulled wine).

If we continue to grow at the fast rate we are, we may overtake the Frankfurt market in Frankfurt
Jennifer Crisp, Birmingham City Council

For drinks trader Nadine Loewenthal, who also oversees the running of the Birmingham German market on behalf of the Frankfurt tourist board, the market hasn't always been profitable for traders.

She said her family-run company made a loss of "one million deutsche marks" in the first five years of trading.

"Every year it has got better for everyone," she said. "We believe that this market is a big success."

She admitted it was easier to make a profit by staying in Germany, but said traders liked coming to the UK, and would often have stalls in a number of markets and owned second homes here.

The UK's love affair with the German market is also a subject of intrigue in Germany and regularly makes the headlines, she said.

"Germans are really happy to have their culture here and are interested in seeing how the market is here," she said.

Festive atmosphere

What is it about German markets that make British people flock to them? For many, it's the atmosphere and the lure of festive food and drink.

"A lot of British Christmas traditions come from European and German traditions - Gluhwein, gingerbread, they are German in their origins," said Ms Crisp.

Joy Ratcliffe, 63, from Stourbridge, regularly visits the Christmas market in Stuttgart in Germany, as well as the Birmingham market.

She said: "Some things, like food, are a lot more expensive here but it wouldn't stop me coming. I love the Christmas atmosphere."

Her friend Delma Carter, from Coventry, added: "It's something different to what we would normally get in England."

German market
German markets sell an array of traditional food, drink and crafts

The German market's popularity is soaring - Hull, Northampton and Solihull in the West Midlands are among the latest destinations to join the trend.

Tim Baldwin, city centre manager for Hull, said he hoped the German market would pull in the crowds and help businesses through the recession.

"German markets tend to be very Christmassy compared to farmers' markets and continental markets," he said.

"It's a different experience. The UK is starting to take this on board."

Joe Harrison, CEO of the National Market Traders Federation, said he had received complaints from British stallholders that the rise in German markets was affecting their trade, but said most benefited from the extra customers.

He said: "We have got anecdotal evidence that they actually improve footfall in towns and cities. We don't feel they have an adverse effect on regional markets.

"We do get complaints from our members, but in a lot of cases the problem is they are trading from markets that are generally in the poorest buildings, where there has been no investment in the market and often they are in a poor position in a town or city and that is having more of an adverse effect than introducing a German or a farmers' market."

Print Sponsor

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