Located between Strasbourg and Colmar, the historic town of Sélestat is an important landmark in the history of Christmas traditions. The Sélestat Christmas Market occupies the old town selling Christmas decorations and ornaments, local produce and handicrafts from Alsace.
The long Christmas tree tradition in Sélestat
It was in Sélestat that the first Alsatian Christmas tree appeared. Or, at least, it is in the town that, on the 21st December 1521, mention was made of a decorated Christmas tree. This for the first time in history. Stored in the Humanist Library (Bibliothèque Humaniste) and dating to 21 December 1521, the records of the city of Sélestat make mention of the tree on page 239, in reference to four schillings the forest rangers received to watch over the tree on Christmas Day.
The city of Sélestat had to spend this money in order to protect its woods from being ruined by the locals who wished to decorate their Christmas tree. More than decorating just a branch, the inhabitants of Sélestat adorned the whole tree – which was hung from the ceiling -, thus starting a new custom that would continue throughout the centuries to come across the whole world, from New York’s Rockefeller Centre to St Martin Place in Sydney.
The book of records from 1521 is on display at the Humanist Library.
The Sélestat Christmas Market on Place d’Armes
The Sélestat Christmas Market (Marché de Noël de Sélestat) welcomes the visitors in Place d’Armes in the heart of the historic town. Visitors will find Christmas decorations, “vin chaud” (mulled wine), Christmas cakes, biscuits and gingerbread without forgetting local Alsatian produce.
The Sélestat Christmas market takes place from 29 November to 29 December 2019.
The Palais des Glaces and Christmas chalet
The place du marché vert welcomes an ice-skating rink and a Christmas chalet selling Alsatian produce.
The video projection on the façade of St. Georges church
A giant video projection is played onto the façade of the St. Georges church. It is designed on the theme of the Christmas tree. The screening takes place every 10 minutes.
The Christmas tree exhibition in St. Georges church
A Christmas Tree Exhibition organised inside the St. Georges Church reveals the most noticeable historic stages in the development of the decoration of the Christmas tree from the 16th century up to today.
The exhibition also shows how the evergreen trees were decorated over the past centuries. It explains how it left a trace of the past in the region of Alsace. Decorated fir-trees are hung in the nave of the church under the arches as they were originally.
In the crypt you’ll find a fantastic display of Meisenthal Christmas baubles.
The Meisenthal Baubles chandelier
Enter in St. Foy Church to admire the beautiful Meisenthal baubles chandelier. It comprises 173 Christmas baubles in various colours.
The Jardin du Sapin
On your visit to Sélestat, participate in one of the many Christmas events the municipality organises such as the Jardin du Sapin (Evergreen Garden), at 7 Place du Marché aux Choux. There, Sélestat reconstituted a small wood of evergreen trees. The garden is lit up in a discrete and somewhat mysterious way!
The Humanist Library
The fac-similé of the book of records from 1521 which reports the first mention of a decorated fir-tree for Christmas is on display in the Humanist Library.
Christmas walks in the town
Like many towns in Alsace, the streets of the historic centre of Sélestat display a magical decoration and illumination at Christmas time. Some of the beautiful old façades show a fantastic feature of Christmas decoration.
During the period of Advent, it is best to discover Sélestat at night fall. Then the illuminations adorn the town’s monuments and landmarks such as the Gothic St. Georges Church and the Romanesque St. Foy Church, the Town-Hall and the medieval gate locally known as Porte Neuve.
Christmas Events in Sélestat
During Advent, Sélestat is home to several events:
- street animations (Santa’s own postman, Fanfrelette, Time O’Clock, fire show, Christmas tree parade, Alsatian marching band…)
- ignition of the Advent candles on the place du marché-aux-poissons every Advent Sunday (by St. Foy church)
- concerts (choral singing, classical, electro or rock music)
- The competition for the best creative Christmas trees. The nominees are exhibited on the 2nd floor of the Sainte-Barbe centre from 29 Nov. to 28 Dec. 2017. More info.
The town of Sélestat is situated in the centre of Alsace, between Strasbourg and Colmar. With a population of 20,000, Sélestat display a rich architectural heritage which includes several mansions and town-houses such as the Ebersmunster House (1543), the Ziegler House (1538). The picturesque Tanner’s district contains half-timbered houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Sélestat houses two magnificent churches: the Romanesque église Sainte Foy and its three bell towers (12th C) and the Gothic église Saint Georges (13th-15th C).
The Humanist Library of Sélestat is Alsace’s oldest public library (1452). It contains 450 manuscripts, 550 incunabula and 2,000 printing works from the 16th century.
How to get to the Sélestat Christmas Market
Come by train
Sélestat is conveniently situated on the Mulhouse-Colmar-Strasbourg train line.
The Strasbourg-Lyon axis passes by Sélestat: Colmar (25km), Strasbourg (55 km), Mulhouse (65km), Basel (90km), and Nancy (130 km). Paris is 440 km distant from Sélestat.
Fly to the nearest airports
The closest international airports are Strasbourg-Entzheim (45km) and the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Euroairport (80km) with flights operating to/from France and Europe.
Sélestat Christmas Market: English-French Vocabulary
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Advent = Avent (m)
- chalet = châlet (m)
- Christmas market = marché de Noël (m)
- Christmas Tree = sapin de Noël (m), arbre de Noël (m)
- church = église (f)
- Father Christmas = Père Noël (m)
- holiday season = période de Noël (f), temps des fêtes (m)
- library = bibliothèque (f)
- mulled wine = vin chaud (m)
- Nativity scene = crêche (f)
- second-hand market = brocante (f)
- Santa = Père Noël (m)
- square = place (f)
- street = rue (f)
French Moments would like to thank Selestadium Novum for giving us the opportunity to share their photos on this page.
Find out more about Advent and the Christmas season in Sélestat on the official website of the town.
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