© #visitfrankfurt, Holger Ullmann

Frankfurt Christmas markets since 1393

Royal reconciliation
and artistic heritage

There is documentary evidence dating back to 1393 confirming that markets were held in Frankfurt am Main at Christmas as far back as that time.

The market was usually accompanied by ecclesiastical mystery plays on the Römerberg, which presumably had their origins in the encounter of 941, when King Otto I "the Great" reconciled with his brother Henry after Christmas mass.

Henry prostrated himself before his brother in front of the Palatine Chapel, which stood where the cathedral is today.

Alfred Rethel used this scene as the inspiration for a painting that is now in the Historical Museum.

© #visitfrankfurt, Holger Ullmann

All Frankfurt Christmas markets

An overview of Christmas markets in the city

Information on the individual Christmas markets will follow.

Historical splendour

How the Frankfurt
Christmas Market came into being

The year 1498 represents a high point in the historical development of the Christmas market. At Christmas of that year, the wedding of Landgrave Wilhelm von Hessen to the daughter of the Elector Palatine was celebrated. The chronicle tells of 1,000 horses with which the Elector, his entourage and guests rode into Frankfurt.

The "Christkindchesmarkt" of that time still lacked the essential symbol of today's Christmas market, namely the mighty Christmas tree. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the Christmas tree became a common Christmas decoration. In Frankfurt, the traders of Sachsenhausen had the privilege of selling the best trees in the Römerhalle before Christmas. Over time, this sale moved to the Römer.

  • Back then, the Christmas market was a purely Frankfurt affair, no strangers were allowed in, and so the market took on a Frankfurt flavour over time.

  • The best local handicrafts were on offer, as well as toys, sweets and Christmas gifts.

  • Toys were mainly simple wooden balls and "Stoffbobbe". Over time, wooden hobby and rocking horses were added.

  • Until the seventies and eighties of the 19th century, it was common for Frankfurt parents to buy toys for their children exclusively at the Christmas market.

© #visitfrankfurt, Holger Ullmann

Customs and tradition

Until the beginning of the Second World War, Frankfurt had hung on to a strange custom in the run-up to Christmas that was not known anywhere else and which may be described as the "custom of the St Nicholas giants".

Pupils from secondary and public schools collected money to make these up-to-two-metre-tall figures from gingerbread dough, and then took the sugar-painted figures to their teacher. The gift was then eaten together. "Brenten", "Bethmännchen" and "Quetschemännchen" all look back on a centuries-old tradition as typical Frankfurt baked goods. In earlier times, they were produced in large quantities in the city's bourgeois houses. Unfortunately, however, the shy admirers of today no longer have the same opportunity as the admirers of the 19th century. The latter used to send one of these Christmastime treats to the house of the object of their desire; if she kept it, he could hope, if she sent it back, his “advances” were refused.

Goethe's love of “Bethmännchen” and their mysterious origin

One of the greatest admirers of traditional Frankfurt Christmas treats was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who, even as a privy councillor in distant Weimar, received a parcel of “Bethmännchen” from his mother every year for the festive season. It is not entirely clear where the marzipan biscuits got their name from.


One tradition holds Napoleon responsible for this, who is said to have said during a stay at the home of the banker Bethmann in Frankfurt: "Give me the little Bethmännchen again!"



Frequently asked questions about the Christmas market