Baltic Christmas markets draw in European tourists

Riga, Dec 17 (EFE).- The scent of mulled wine merges with the smell of smoke from portable grills on Saturday as tourists enjoy Riga’s famed Christmas market to a backdrop of festive music.

The market is the first in two years after a pandemic hiatus and traditional festive events in the Latvian capital.

Many German-speaking countries call these markets Christkindlmarkt or Christ Child markets, however, the Riga market has pagan undertones as musicians dressed as animals perform. They echo the pre-Christian Baltic practice of dressing up as bears, goats, geese and other creatures roaming from home to home hoping to be treated to food and drink.

The Tallinn Christmas market, ranked among the best in Europe in 2019, remained open in a limited way during the pandemic, and now expects at least 500 000 local and foreign visitors in the current holiday season, Diana Harusoo, organizer of Tallinn market, tells Efe.

Speaking of the dozens of stalls in the Tallinn market, Harusoo says “we prefer small family businesses, makers of handicrafts. We have the biggest variation of hot wines. On the food stands, we offer blood sausage and sauerkraut, a national food.”

Several stands in Riga offer elaborate gingerbread cookies, a traditional Christmas treat in the region, sold for 5 euros each ($5.30).

The seller at one gingerbread stand says “these are unlikely to be eaten.”

Another stall sells flavored “hemp butter” – made from ground hemp seeds, flavored with garlic, gingerbread and other spices.

Lithuania’s capital Vilnius also features a Christmas market in its main square, with a few smaller markets in other parts of town.

“The Vilnius Christmas Fair has a wide range of gifts -jewelry, various souvenirs, Christmas decorations and toys, textiles, leather and wool products, food such as pancakes, gingerbread, candies, pies, caramelized apples, doughnuts, roasted chestnuts, even hot ice cream, etc. and an assortment of drinks,” the market’s spokesperson, Rūta Kaminskaitė-Rimkienė, tells Efe.

“We had two years of pandemic restrictions, so we are comparing this year with the pre-pandemic year of 2019 and measuring how much traffic we could restore back then. So, in December, we plan to restore at least 72 percent (about 75,000 tourists) from the 2019 traffic, but we expect those numbers to be even higher and could reach 100,000 tourists. Keep in mind that Vilnius currently has about 560,000 population,” Kaminskaitė-Rimkienė adds.EFE


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