Hungary: visit the Nativity scenes

The good people of Debrecen, Hungary, know a thing or two about Christmas markets. They first applied for the season-long festival in 1886, and the first one opened nearly a century later in 1891.

In May 1890, 1,000 soldiers and partisans staged a protest near the town to demand an end to the often-violent bazaar in Konseropol, a nearby town. They demanded peace and enough bread for all, but the marketgoers made no such demands. Instead, they set to work hawking not just their wares but also the poems and stories of the combatants.

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Almost 100 years later, the markets are going on. The new year began with many early displays of Santas and elf paraphernalia, then a few salacious retail stores opened their windows to celebrate.

So the new year is almost over and the big markets are buzzing. Bazaarchats and caroling are in full swing. Austro-Hungarian confectionaries and cake stalls are everywhere, selling Christmas decorations, candy canes, tiles and other tempting treats.

There’s much to see and taste. The Czec butchers is selling traditional bread, fresh produce and specialties, and there are small dolmens on every corner. Sliced potato cakes and rice balls are perfectly presentable but a lot more interesting than they are sounds.

Christmas morning at the Solvita Nativity scene. Photograph: Bence Bourgeiot/AFP/Getty Images

The tours are free and bookable. For more information, see www.goholidaychoppers.com. The tourist board says the theme this year is “Galitzian: rolling hills and jewellery”.

Visit the colorful Polish Blue Christmas market on the outskirts of Krakow, which celebrated its 100th year on Tuesday. Except for a new-generation Faroese family, there are about 700 shops, local theatre productions and jugglers, acrobats and dancers. Traditional Polish foods from Licka pelacki and Kapusta molotovski to Pieszkolk from Białystok and Bobas geztska are in abundance.

The German market is getting started, too. Started in 1927 in Eisenach, in the East German part of West Berlin, the great orange market has survived the Wall and the Erich Honecker communist regime.

Be sure to visit the details page of www.lesennakassebeischfest-germany.de. The book includes dozens of detailed maps and images, with descriptions of every market in Germany, the countries of the original Saxon region, and details of Christmas decorations such as crystals, polka dots and pine cones.

In case you were wondering, Santa Claus is said to visit the Christmas market in Frankfurt on December 22 and 23.

• The listing was amended on 15 May to clarify that the Blue Christmas market is being staged in the opposite direction of Berlin this year

• This article was amended on 16 May to correct an inaccuracy in the passage above about German markets.

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