The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is one of Germany's oldest documented Christmas markets. It was first mentioned in 1434, under Friedrich II, an Elector of Saxony, when it was held the Monday before Christmas on the Altmarkt square. Over the centuries it has developed into a huge event with 250 stands, taking up a large part of Dresden city centre and lasting throughout the Advent period. Today the Striezelmarkt attracts 2 million visitors a year from all over the world.
The word Striezelmarkt comes from Strüzel or Stroczel, which was the name of a type of cake sold at the market, now famous as Stollen or Christstollen. Stollen is a light airy fruitcake which is quite low in sugar, today available in many parts of the world. The true Dresden Stollen, however, is produced in the city and distinguished by a special seal depicting the city's famous king, August the Strong. The shape of the cake is meant to be reminiscent of the entrance to a mine tunnel (the literal meaning of Stollen) reflecting the area's silver and tin mining history.
At the centre of the Striezelmarkt stands a 20m high spruce, brought from the nearby Tharandt woods and decorated with lights. At the back of the market square there is a painted wooden fairy-tale castle which is also a giant Advent calendar. A door is opened every day by children's entertainers, with a puppet show, and on Fridays there is a visit by Father Christmas himself.