Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The Nuremberg Christmas Angel
During the four weeks of Advent in Nuremberg, Germany, the annual Christmas market--spread across the Hauptmarkt under festive red and white striped rooftops--is the center of life. Shoppers come to buy gifts, people gather with friends and co-workers to have a mug of gluhwein and small children flock to catch a glimpse of the Christmas Angel.
The angel--always a young woman from Nuremberg who is between 16 and 19 years old--wears a crown, long blond curls and golden wings, and opens the market with a poem.
She serves for two years and then, after her term in Nuremberg is up, spends the next two years visiting select Christmas Markets in the U.S. One special location is the Christkindle Market in Chicago, Illinois, which is modeled after the Nuremberg market.
Among the requirements to be considered for the role of Nuremberg Christmas Angel are the stipulations that she have the ability to "withstand bad weather" and "have a very good head for heights." This last is especially important as in order to proclaim the market open, she must perch on a platform high above the crowd.
Today we met 16-year-old Franziska Handke, the 2011 and 2012 Christmas Angel and representative of the city. She was incredibly poised and gracious with the children who pressed close to have a closer look. Like the rest of the crowd, we were dazzled.