Let's forget the nonsense about changing the word Christmas and concentrate on what a traditional Christmas market (Christkindlsmarkt) is about and where to find one, if you're visiting Germany.
While Austria and Switzerland also hold Christmas markets (marché de Noël in French) some Swiss even go on organised coach trips to Germany, Stuttgart in particular, around this time of year - just for the Christmas market.
If you like the taste of Glühwein and the smell of roasted chestnuts on a cold winter's evening, then you'll love the Christmas market atmosphere; the glittering lights in historic centres beckoning you to the wooden stalls offering a wide range of artefacts and local produce. Make a bulk purchase of hams and salamis and you could get a bottle of Schnapps thrown in.
Some Christmas markets start in November but I think the atmosphere of a Christmas market is better when you visit one in December, possibly on or after December 6th - the celebration of St. Nikolaus (the day St. Nicholas died in AD 342).
Augsburger Christkindlesmarkt: (Nov. 24 to Dec. 24)
Located on the marketplace in front of the Augsburg town hall. As well as the specialities found at other Bavarian markets, Augsburg is also famous for its Angel play and advent calendar. The first Lebkuchenmarkt was held here in 1498.
Berlin at Christmas:
Germany's capital is home to over 50 Christmas markets ranging from traditional markets, with handicraft and nativity scene, to extraordinary ones, with ice skating rink and Ferris wheel.
Christmas City Nuremburg: (Nov. 25 to Dec. 24)
While the earliest Christmas market was held here in 1628 and some two million visitors are attracted to Nürnberg’s Christmas market annually, it is neither the oldest or largest Christmas market in Germany.
Christmas in Lübeck:
Although the market in the northern province of Schleswig-Holstein has been held around the city hall since 1648, today there are a number of markets taking place in Lübeck during the build up to Christmas and into the New Year. Ice World (ice and snow sculpture festival) also runs from December 9th to January 29th.
Dresden Striezelmarkt: (Nov. 24 to Dec. 24)
Dating from 1434, Dresden's Striezelmarkt (named after the bread-like sweetcake made around Christmas time) is the oldest Christmas market in Germany.
Frankfurt am Main: (Nov. 23 to Dec. 22)
Frankfurt's Christmas market is set in the oldest part of the city, near the Römerberg. Specialities include Brenten (almond cookies), Bethmännchen (marzipan balls), and Quetschenmännchen (prune figures).
Munich Christkindlmarkt: (Nov. 25 to Dec. 24)
Munich's traditional Christmas Market is held on the Marienplatz. Originally called the Nicholas Market, the festive tradition dates back to the 14th century. The town’s annals first mention Christmas activity near the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) in 1642. The nearby Crib Market is also worth a visit.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: (Nov. 25 to Dec. 23)
The medieval setting in the walled city of Rothenburg makes the Reiterlesmarkt a special event for those who like to feel as though they're stepping back in time. The German Christmas Museum is also located in Rothenburg.
Stuttgart Christmas Market:
First mentioned in a document in 1692, the Stuttgart Christmas Market contains more than 230 lovingly decorated stalls and is not only one of the oldest but certainly also one of the most beautiful and largest Christmas markets in Europe.
Weihnachtsmärkte in Köln:
Cologne’s oldest Christmas market is held on the Neumarkt although the most attractive Christmas market is the one on the Alter Markt, in front of Cologne's town hall.
And there's no worries about the trees being called holiday trees in Germany, here they're still traditional Christmas trees (Christbaum), or Weihnachtsbaume.
More Christmas Markets
Germany's Christmas Markets:
Large listing of Christmas Markets in Germany.
Christmas Markets in Europe:
Christmas article from Michelin.
Advent in Salzburg:
The Salzburger Christkindlmarkt is located in the historic city centre, near the Cathedral, and there's also a Christmas Market on Mirabell Square as well as other advent programs around the city.
Wiener Adventzauber: (Nov. 12 to Dec. 24)
Experience the magic of Advent in Vienna. The Christkindlmarkt, Vienna's classic Christmas Market, is located on the square in front of the Rathaus. Vienna's most authentic Christmas market, however, is at Spittelberg.
Marché de Noël:
Listings and links to Christmas markets in France.
Just across the border from Germany, Alsace's major city has staged one of the largest Christmas markets in France for over four hundred years.
Les Marchés de Noël 2005 en Alsace:
Dates of other Christmas markets in Alsace.
Christmas Markets in France:
Kelby Carr has put a short article together on her France For Visitors slot.
Switzerland at Christmas
On December 6th, most restaurants will put out bowls of nuts, oranges and chocolates for their customers. The Christmas market itself is not as big an event as in neighbouring Germany, Austria or France but more places do have smaller markets that run for a few days. The more notable Christmas events in Switzerland can be found in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Luzern, Montreux (nicest), St. Gallen (largest Christmas tree in Switzerland) and Zurich (around the Hauptbahnhof). Bremgarten (AG) is said to be romantic and Beckenried (NW) traditional.
Christmas Markets in the UK:
Christmas markets and holiday events are a festive way to get into the spirit of the season and do your Christmas shopping. Find one near you from this list.