How to run a Christmas market…?

23 Nov 2014
3 min read
Willy Reinhard tells us all about the ins and outs of running one of Germany’s most famous Christmas markets in Bremerhaven and tells us the fascinating story of the creation of the Royal Almond.

Our market isin Bremerhaven at the coast of the North Sea. Our motto is “Saint Nicholas was a sailor”, I think that’s a very nice image. It suits Bremerhaven very well.

I have two restaurants in Bremerhaven, two seafood restaurants in the tourist area of the fishing port, Reinhard’s restaurant and restaurant Gezeiten. I come from a “fairground family” so I’m actually a travelling boy. My grandpa started it all after the war, he brought all the festivals in and around Bremerhaven back to life, all the fetes and fairs. My grandparents made sweets, large honey cakes, waffles, hearts and so on. And we still manufacture our sweets according to my grandfather’s old recipes. Candy canes, lollipops, cashews, peppermint brittle – we produce everything in-house.

My grandparents have then already made ​​sweets. These large honey cakes, waffles, heart, and all this stuff. And according to the recipes of my grandfather we still manufacture our sweets. Candy canes, lollipops, cashews, peppermint break. That’s what we all own and produce.

What makes this particular Christmas market so special is its authenticity. We have all these little huts and of course we have the Christmas story, nativity plays, we have a Christmas calendar which we open every day and every Sunday we have Saint Nikolaus visiting us – it’s a classic, traditional Christmas market which is being run by the fairground people and gastronomers. What we cannot do ourselves, like craft products, we get people from outside to exhibit here.

As a child I didn’t have a pre-Christmas period. My parents have always worked at the Christmas market and when I came from school I went straight there and did my homework in the hut. I never experienced baking Christmas cookies with my parents at home. With my son it’s different – I don’t have to be at the market all day every day. I want to be there for him.

The Christmas market opens on 24 November but we start building it on 7 November, like the huge Christmas tent and the igloo. All the structures are temporary and are standing only for one month but it takes a long time after the first screw is in place until we’re ready to go. We’re open from 24 November until 22 December.

Our speciality is the Königsmandel, the Royal Almond. My father went to a place called Königsbach where every product in the hotel and the restaurant had a “royal” title, like “Royal Beer, “Royal Dumplings” and so on. So a friend teased him and said, why don’t you create a Royal Almond when you’re back home. My father thought it was a great idea and so he went out to find a product matching the name. He found the Spanish Laguerta from Andalusia. Luis Cremades, who sells them, became a very good friend. So my father took this almond back to his little sugar lab and started to caramelise them. And just with a little bit of cane sugar he created an exceptional almond. This almond was of course very expensive and my mother placed it on the counter with a very high price tag. We thought no one would buy it, and initially we were right. But those that bought them never wanted any other almonds. It’s only got very little sugar and tastes different. It took about two to three years until it sold better than our other almonds. You just have to be patient and trust new ideas.

Other people saw that it worked for us just relabelled their almonds and price tags to say Royal Almond, but I quickly patented it and issued warnings to all these people. Now we’re back to being the only sellers of the Königsmandel. And it’s here to stay.

We also sell mulled beer, which we produce with a brewery from Dettmold. I always try to do something different than the others. Everyone can sell mulled wine and so we tried our luck at mulled beer. We built an igloo, 10 metres in diameter, where we sell mulled beer in nice 0.25ml cups that we had made especially. It has the smell of beer, then you get the sweet mulled taste with a beer finish.

We also have Feuerzangenbowle, the flaming spiced rum that’s so typical for Germany. We have copper boilers with the burning bit at the top which caramelises the 54% rum and drips into it. Delicious!

Images ©Helmut Groß/Erlebnis Bremerhaven GmbH