Birmingham: we invented Christmas – our history with the German Market

Paradise Circus Christmas 2013 Graphic

Most of our notions of modern Christmas come from the Victorian author Charles Dickens, who being the rock star of his time toured the country reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’. Turning a then barely-noticed mark on the calendar into the jolly family oriented affair we associate today.

He really saw the value of a time of year where we take time to connect with family and give out nothing but love. The story of Scrooge is ultimately one of redemption, not one of spiritual redemption but one of redemption through the forgiveness of others and connection with his family.

The place where Chucky D chose to first read from this book? Birmingham Town Hall, So really Birmingham is Christmas’s Bethlehem: and so we here celebrate the Brummiest Christmas thing going: our relationship with the German Market.

Stuck for a present? Why not try the new Birmingham: It’s Not Shit the book, or 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World.

German? Market?

A few years ago Danny told us about how each Decemberwe welcome the disruptive crapfest most call the ‘German market’ but the council insist calling the ‘Frankfurt Market’ because according to the website, ‘Birmingham has been twinned with Frankfurt for more than 40 years. But the connection is so tenuous you might as well say that Birmingham is twinned with Elvis, or Monster Munch or the colour blue.

The connection goes deeper than that as we found out in this exclusive interview:


Each year it all starts with the The longest German Market planning email thread in Europe :

Albert, thank you for your email. We are very much looking forward to coming to Birmingham again this year. Here are our ideas:

Pulled Pork Mit Alles: We take to leftover pig from the hog roast stand and soak it in water for 24 hours, creating a gigantic vat of stuff that would ordinarily be fed to dogs that allows us to charge a £2 premium on any product; Waffles Mit Pulled Pork, Wurst Mit Pulled Pork, and so on.

Das Craft Bierkeller: the is just normal beer but with silly names and served in jam jars.

Die Streetfood Halle: slightly better looking servers (mit the red trousers, and the “Nazi schoolboy haircuts” you are having now) will serve our regular food but for customers queueing for longer.

The State of the Union Pie: This contains 45% meat products (heart, guts, etc) and 55% hot air.

Finally, as you guests, we are keen to uphold British traditions so we will be employing workers on zero hours contracts at minimum wage and will not be paying any tax.

‘Is there a Birmingham market in Frankfurt?’ funny people ask. Yes.

“The lucky Gerrys have been treated to ‘mulled’ Brew XI, West Bromwich Albion mobile phone covers and other Birmingham speciallities. The streets of our twin town ring out to the cries of “eeeeveeeenin mayol”, while the Frankfurters have obviously enjoyed the delights of Mick’s Meat Auction .”



After Dan moaning about it, we then told him he had to love it.  Hate the German market? Buy a candle and shut the fuck up, he said.

The Market is certainly inconvenient, town, in places, does become a seasonal episode of Wipeout with prams and brollys offering actual serious injury and roadside enucleation rather than a comedy boxing glove or padded beam. Of course there are ways of avoiding it should you want too, you would have to be spectacularly stubborn to keep the same route.

And yes, it’s tat, repetitive tat at that. But are our high streets much better? The microcosm reflects the macrocosm our High St is pretty much identical to any other major city in England. But you practically wet yourself at the opportunity to cram yourself on an escalator in a train station to visit the latest incarnations of brands we see everywhere. The market isn’t really selling objects as much as its selling experiences, a feeling. That christmassy feeling that we as adults chase like our first crack high.

In our new book Birmingham: It’s Not Shit the book  Danny now picks the bloody German Market as one of 50 Things that Delight About Brum.

The thing I realised is that indeed, the Frankfurt Christmas Market is shit, but everything about Christmas is a little shit. The films, the songs, the parties, the food, all of it is fifty shades of shite. But that’s not the point: we not only endure them, we love them. Not despite the hokey saccharine artifice but because of it.

Stuck for a present? Why not try the new Birmingham: It’s Not Shit the book, or 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World.

Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.

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