Christmas Vol. 2: Erlangen vs. Ivano-Frankivsk

Weihnachten in Erlangen...

Christmas in Erlangen…

... and in the Ukraine.

… and in the Ukraine.

Sometimes it is very beneficial to be an international person. Especially at the time of Christmas. As soon as in one country everything ends, in the other one everything only is getting started.


Christmas market is one of the main sights in Germany. Each city is proud of its own century-old traditions, cuisine and souvenirs. And it is as well common that it starts before Advent (last year it was on November 28) and ends right before Christmas. And no one questions it.. but can it be different? And the answer is “Yes”. In Ukraine in recent years it has also become popular to organize Christmas markets all over the country, but they are peculiarly Ukrainian and I’m going to explain why. First of all, they last during Christmas and a few weeks afterwards. For example, in my native town, Ivano-Frankivsk, it started on December 12 and will be still there up to January 21. Second of all, we use Julian calendar and Ukrainian Christmas is celebrated on January 6 and is followed by a few other major winter holidays. So after Christmas the celebrations only get started.

Favorite places

Candles Erlangen.

Candles Erlangen.

If you are first time in Erlangen, your favorite place is simply the market “Waldweihnachten” in general with all its forest mood, sawdust on the ground, fir-trees and bright lights everywhere. It is perfectly organized considering the smallest details. The main theme is “forest” and you would really feel yourself in a forest. Not only some tables are made out of stubs, but there are dozens of Christmas trees everywhere (even the back sides of each shop are decorated with branches). So you feel as if in a fairy-tale merely standing there. If you are a more advanced traveler, you may use my ‘top-3 places’ idea.

Number 1: Bakery. Here any child who wants to try to make a little dwarf has a chance to do it. And everybody else has a chance to be touched by such a scene. The whole process is quite simple: you just dip the cookie in chocolate to make a hat and boots and then draw a face. The best part is that afterwards you can eat it)

Candles in the Ukraine.

Candles in the Ukraine.

Number 2: Candle making. I know it sounds very old-fashioned and boring, but in fact it’s very bright and fun. You buy a white candle and create your own design in a few minutes just by dipping your candle into jars with different colors. The magic happens in front of your eyes and no one can stop it. The result is each time unexpected and amazing.

Number 3: Mulled wine, also known as Glühwein)) Of course, no one can omit this place, especially during Advent. A cup of tasty wine would cost you 3€ and the money is really worth it. Not only it tastes like cinnamon and candied fruits, but also like childhood and Christmas.

Welcome to the market in Ivano-Frankivsk

If you are tired of the routine of German markets and want to try something new, welcome to one of the Ukrainian markets, namely in Ivano-Frankivsk. Here you can listen to traditional folk songs, try traditional cuisine and buy many souvenirs. Note that on New Year and Christmas you can also come here with your friends or family and enjoy the spirit. Even when all the holidays are already over, you would still have a few more days to say good-bye to it. And here are again ‘top-3 places’ to begin with.

Number 1: Hand-made stores. This is where tradition unites with modern trends and where you can find old-fashioned decorations for a Christmas tree and modern cute knick-knacks for your home. For example, the traditional straw bouquets that are put near the table during the meal on Christmas Eve. Or ceramic decorations for your house. Or jewelry made of polymer clay, colorful beads, feathers or even knitted.

Happy New Year, Ivano-Frankivsk.

Happy New Year, Ivano-Frankivsk.

Number 2: Candles. Though here you won’t be able to paint your candle (only on your own at home), you should visit this shop, because these candles are real works of art. They are usually made out of beeswax and can be of all imaginable shapes.

Number 3: Mulled wine. Traditionally we finish our little trip with a cup of warm wine which would cost you about 0.50-1€ (so take two cups)) It would be a bit different from a German one, maybe somehow bitter or stronger, or with unusual spices, but the spirit of holidays is always preserved.


Probably, the most logical question is which market is better and you can now blame me for being too diplomatic, but I would say that each market is worth visiting. And usually there are few markets in each city, which are difficult to compare because they are so different and so interesting. Even in Erlangen there is one more market in about 4 minutes of walk from Waldweihnachten, called “Historical market” which also is very interesting to visit. Probably, some markets are more elaborate, with older traditions and better organization, but each tries to celebrate the forthcoming Christmas. So next year don’t forget to visit one 😉

Olha Kuzmyn