BERLIN (AP) — The aroma of hot mulled gluehwein wine mingling with the scent of bratwurst, roasted almonds and gingerbread: these are among the signature attractions of Germany's outdoor Christmas markets.
People huddle together amid the wooden huts of the outdoor Christmas markets under festive lights, a scene replicated around the nation from the smallest villages to the largest cities during the time of Advent.
The tradition of street markets in the month before Christmas dates to the 15th century in central Europe.
Today, the first markets open at the end of October, selling food, drinks, seasonal crafts and other goods. Some offer Ferris Wheels and other fairground rides for the children.
For many of the adults, the hot gluehwein — sometimes fortified with a shot of brandy or rum — is a popular brace against the winter cold and the frenzy of the holiday season. Regional specialties like hot apple wine in western state of Hesse or stollen, a sweet bread with dried fruit and sugar coating, from the eastern state of Saxony, give most of the markets an individual flair.
German Christmas markets are also increasingly important to local economies, drawing people from around the world.
A 2013 study by a business association that specializes in Christmas markets and public festivals suggested that revenue from the larger markets in Germany alone exceeds a billion euros (US$1.1 billion) per year. Some 85 million people visited Christmas markets that year, a 70 percent increase since 2000.