Exploring Christmas Markets, with the Passionate Foodie

Exploring Christmas Markets, with the Passionate Foodie

Lucinda Frye

Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on a quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but everyday food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with that which is produced from good old terra firma, is what makes the world go around. 

Possibly one of our all-time favourite places to visit are Christmas markets, especially those overseas where it is much cooler and the tasty wares are served piping hot and just begging one to taste everything being offered. As we live here in the tropics, our Christmas markets offer a wonderful variety of home-made wares and sometimes there are great tasty things to try too.

The difference between ordinary markets and Christmas markets, though, are the unusual and seasonal tastes being offered. There’s nothing better than wandering round Christmas market stalls bundled up against the cold and warming up with mulled wine, churros with melted chocolate or hot chocolate drinks with melting marshmallows.

In the UK, the markets are often held in the grounds of ancient churches or down the high-streets of old towns, which adds to the atmosphere. Wandering around, one may find a black painted truck serving just baked-potatoes with various fillings; warm sugar-coated peanuts or almonds (we sometimes get these in Grand Case – the hot mulled wine stand always has a queue). Sometimes, one finds stalls selling the German Christmas specials like pretzels, bratwursts sweet marzipan cookies and Glühwein! Christmas markets overseas also offer many stalls with home-grown fresh produce, meats and cheeses.

Added to the stalls will often be a special area set aside for entertainment – stage shows; fairground rides; ice skating rinks; petting zoos that sometimes have a reindeer or two in a pen. Always, always there is a Father Christmas to visit. Some of the places, where you can find dear old Santa, will be elaborately built. Perhaps, it will be a cave or a wooden house with a warming fire place. Father Christmas will be available to be photographed with the little darlings. (Oops! How many times have the wee ones burst into tears the first-time round?)

One Christmas market we went to had a large, red post box outside Father Christmas’ “lair”. The children could write a wish-list to him for the most wanted Christmas gifts and then post the wish list into the red post box.

A favourite Christmas market is the one at Kew Gardens. Not only are the trees and shrubs lit, but every so often, one comes across a stall or stage as one wanders along the pathways – there is a large marshmallow stand where one buys a marshmallow or two on a long skewer and then turns to an open wood fire and roasts one’s own marshmallow; there is an area with a large picture frame where one can take funny photos. (It is dark in the evenings so the background is black and strategic lights in the frame light one’s features for the photo.) There are stages where actors act out a funny Christmas skit and there are of course many stalls with home-made tasty food, crafts and knitted goods.

You will find Christmas markets in church halls and in the body of the church itself. We visited a fabulous market in a Cathedral, in a seaside town in England. This market had many stalls, and Father Christmas had an area decked out in the Nave of the Cathedral. The whole time we were there, someone played true Christmas carols on the lovely organ; and every now and then, the crowd would break out into song. Mulled wine and ginger biscuits, shortbread and soup were offered to the market goers.

Dreaming of a White Christmas in the Netherlands? Plan to visit one of the many markets there. The market at Valkenburg in Limburg is quite amazing as it is held in the caves. The Christmas spirit is shown with twinkling lights and magical decorations and being “indoors” means it may not be as cold and wet as it could be in other markets places!

The Christmas market in Haarlem is big and promises to be huge again this year. They can have up to 300 stalls of every single Christmas related thing you can think of – take a full day there and stay on until closing.

Maastricht is one of the Netherlands’ most famous Christmas markets where one can most definitely experience the Christmas spirit. You will find a range of market stalls, chalets where you can eat, a Ferris wheel, and a carousel – it is all so wonderfully Christmassy!

Of course, in Germany and Austria, one finds the stalls of German delicacies everywhere and the aroma wafting over the market area just swells the heart with pleasure. Many Christmas scenes like on advent calendars and wreathes or mantle-piece Christmas scenes depict the typical houses one sees in old German towns; and the houses at Essen, Trier and Leipzig surround the market places making one feel like they stepped into a fairy tale. The ambiance is sooo romantic. All the pine trees/Christmas trees will be decorated with twinkling lights and the aroma will envelope one, absolutely filling one’s senses with delight. The top-quality gifts found at the stalls mean one should perhaps take along an empty bag to fill – just remember your allowed luggage weight for the return journey.

Here on St. Maarten/St. Martin, we have a number of Christmas markets to visit. One in Simpson Bay will be held this Saturday at Joga; another will be at Pasture Piece on the 15th. There will be more market notifications for sure – just keep up to date on social media!

The Christmas spirit is alive and well on island. Most folk have spent a long time preparing their crafts for the markets. It is worth a visit to each and every one of them. Perhaps, you will be able to taste some home-made guavaberry – the Christmas drink of note here on island. What other seasonal tasty goodies will you find? Head over and support the folk and make your Christmas spirit soar!

Some recipes today will be suggestions to make tasty morsels you may find at Christmas markets and some other tasty fare to just make at home for you, your friends and family!


Glühwein – because why not start the right way!



1 orange, halved and sliced

1 bottle red wine

200g caster sugar

5 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

3 slices fresh ginger (peeled)

150ml brandy, rum, amaretto or schnapps



Put orange slices, wine, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and ginger in a large pan.

Warm gently for 10-15 minutes; do not to let the mixture boil.

Add the alcohol, pour into glasses and serve warm

Gingerbread – cut out shapes and decorate with royal icing


175g dark muscovado sugar

85g golden syrup

100g butter

350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 TBL ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

To decorate

Royal writing icing

Chocolate buttons or small sweets


Melt sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan, then bubble for 1-2 mins.

Leave to cool for about 10 mins.

Tip flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl.

Add warm syrup mixture and the egg, stir everything together, then gently knead in the bowl until smooth and streak-free – the dough will firm up once cooled.

Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 mins.

Remove dough from fridge, leave at room temperature until softened.

Heat oven to 400° F and line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Roll out dough to the thickness of a silver dollar coin, then cut out gingerbread people with a cutter.

Re-roll the excess dough and keep cutting until it’s all used up.

Lift the biscuits onto the trays and bake for 10-12 mins, swapping the trays over halfway through cooking.

Leave to cool on the trays for 5 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use royal icing to decorate the biscuits as you wish, and place chocolate or sweets for buttons. Leave to dry for 1-2 hours.

Keep in airtight container up to 3 days.

Zimtsterne - Cinnamon star cookies


2 large egg whites

1 tsp lemon juice, plus zest 1 lemon

200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

250g ground almond

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger


Pre-heat oven to 300° F.

Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.

Whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy.

Add lemon juice, whisk again until they hold soft peaks.

Slowly mix in icing sugar; continue whisking until stiff.

Remove a quarter of the meringue mixture, set aside to use for the topping.

Put almonds, cinnamon, ginger and lemon zest in the bowl with the meringue and mix to form a stiff, slightly sticky dough.

Place dough on a piece of baking parchment lightly dusted with icing sugar.

Dust the top of the dough with icing sugar, too.

Place a second sheet of parchment on top of the dough and roll out to about 0.5cm thick (the dough is a little sticky, so the parchment makes it easier to roll).

Peel off the top sheet of parchment and use a 5cm star-shaped cutter to cut out as many cookies as possible.

Place them on your prepared baking tray.

Using reserved meringue mixture, spread a small amount onto the top of each cookie, covering the entire top – add a drop or two of water to make it a bit more spreadable.

Bake for 12-15 mins until meringue is set but not browned.

Allow to cool fully before storing in a sealed container.

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