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An early Christmas in Osaka

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The first record of a decorated Christmas tree came from 16th-century Germany, though some say the custom dates back to the eighth century, when an English monk, St. Boniface, traveled to Germany to help convert people there to Christianity.

Now more of a secular symbol of Christmas celebrations, the Christmas tree is enjoyed worldwide. But one of the best places to find yuletide decorations and get into the festive spirit is still in Germany, at a Christmas Market.

With the holiday season just around the corner, Shin Umeda City, a building complex in Osaka’s Kita Ward, is hosting an authentic German Christmas Market to give visitors a taste of that tradition.

A 27-meter-high Christmas tree, one of the world’s tallest, has been installed and decorated for visitors to view from the Umeda Sky Building below. The tree, which has been a special symbol of Christmas in Osaka for more than 20 years, will be lit up with more than 100,000 lights at the opening ceremony, which starts at 5 p.m. on Friday. A choir of students from Kobe’s European School will also perform during the opening ceremony, adding to the Christmas ambience.

Stalls, set up in wooden hütte (huts) imported from Germany, will offer handcrafts, ornaments and German delicacies such as grilled sausages and hearty soup, as well as festive stollen and the ever popular baumkuchen cakes. Visitors will also be able to warm up with a glass of hot, spiced Gluhwein (German mulled wine), a great treat on a cold winter day.

For those who are planning to visit the market with children, a unique hand-crafted merry-go-round will be available for rides throughout the event. The second oldest in Europe and one of only four existing on the continent, this carousel offers the rare opportunity for kids to try a real, traditional fairground ride. The German Santa Claus — der Heilige Nikolaus or Saint Nicholas — will be visiting the market on weekends for those kids who want to ask Santa for their Christmas wishes, while other attractions are also being prepared for the weekends.

The Christmas Market takes place from Nov. 15 through Dec. 25, from noon to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Times will vary depending on the day. Admission is free. Shin Umeda City is an 8-min. walk from JR Osaka or Umeda Station on the Subway Midosuji or Hankyu Lines. For more information, visit www.skybldg.co.jp/event/xmarkt/2013/index.html, or call 06-6440-3872.