Heat Up Your Holidays with Kinky Festivities at Germany’s XXXmas Market

Naked Santa, strip teases, pornokaraoke—and lots and lots of glühwein.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
Welcome to the world's most festive holiday market. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
Welcome to the world's most festive holiday market. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

A naked Santa Claus is sitting down slinging beer and pouring liquor in glühwein, the mulled wine that’s a mainstay of German Christmas markets. Nearby, two drunk men are caroling for a group of 50 or so onlookers. They’re not crooning the holiday tunes you’d expect like “O Tannenbaum” or “Jingle Bells.” They’re performing something completely different: “Pornokaraoke.” The person orchestrating it all? A topless drag queen named Ella Mortadella wearing a Santa hat.

This scene isn’t what you’d expect from a Christmas market in Germany, but this isn’t your average holiday fair—it’s the annual XXXmas Market, Santa Pauli, which appropriately takes place in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn red-light district from mid-November up until the day before Christmas Eve.

Out are the fairytale-looking wooden stalls and angelic choir. Christmas trees here aren’t adorned in twinkling lights, but rather fluorescent dildoes. Instead of hand-carved nativity scenes, nutcrackers, or Räuchermannchen (“smoking manikin” incense burners), the stands here display a different kind of gift for the holiday season. You’ll find bondage-themed ornaments, body piercing jewels, skull decor, hand-carved (splinter-free) wooden dildoes, and holiday-inspired sex toys—think jingle balls instead of bells.

Santa Pauli performers
Santa Pauli is a hedonistic take on the holiday season. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

It’s a hedonistic take on the holiday season and a far, far cry from anything you’d find at Nuremberg’s famous Christkindlmarkt or Cologne’s stunning Dom Markt—or, really, any Christmas market in Europe. But what it lacks in sanctity, it makes up for in sin, because (at least in the neighborhood St. Pauli) you can’t have one without the other.

“The visitors don’t just get hot from the mulled wine,” said event organizer Jochen Bohnsack in an interview ahead of the first ever rendition in 2006. The goal was to create a Christmas market that fit the personality of the St. Pauli area in Hamburg.

“Here, even Santa Claus and the child of Christ can live out their sexuality,” added Hamburg’s cult drag queen Olivia Jones. And it doesn’t seem much has changed since its opening, beyond growing larger and larger each year.

SANTA PAULI porno karaoke
Oh yes, there’s plenty of entertainment, too. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Santa Pauli isn’t the only unique Christmas Market in the city, either. In previous years, there's been a doggie market, and there’s even an entire Winter Pride Xmas Market in artsy St. Georg, complete with plenty of glühwein, DJs, and local LGBTQ+ organizations sharing their stories and collecting donations.

But here at the XXXmas market, the entrance sign reads: “Welcome to Hamburg’s Hottest Christmas Market.” “Hot” it is not—not from a climate perspective nor from a fleshy, Miami standpoint. You won’t find much bare skin among the crowds of giggling Germans wearing their thick jackets and pom-pom hats while cupping warm mulled wine. Aside from the compromising depictions of Santa that’d only embarrass Mrs. Claus and the elves, the atmosphere is, much like the other Christmas markets dotting Hamburg, entirely jolly.

mulled wine christmas mugs
Like with any Christmas market, the mulled wine stand is a good place to start. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Like any proper romp, the “Glühweinapotheke” bar is a perfect starting point to loosen any inhibitions. Resembling an 18th-century pharmacy, the faux apothecary lets visitors concoct their own mulled wine elixir from an assortment of high-quality reds and whites from the Pfalz region. Using beakers and test tubes, bartenders dressed in white lab coats blend the glühwein to your taste, drop by drop, whether that be a Dornfelder mixed with plumb or a Riesling accented with vanilla, anise, and, for good measure, a hit of rum.

SANTA PAULI strip zelt
This is the red-light district, after all... | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Venture a little deeper to the “Stripzelt,” or strip tent, where every hour on the hour from 7 p.m. on is a new performance (and there’s one male strip tease a day). Here, you can succumb to holiday boudoir as people of all genders titillate curios partygoers with their gyrations.

Santa’s face may be emblazoned onto sex toys, along with candy cane dildos, marzipan genitalia, and penis-shaped cookies—but not everything here is about the erotic. Plenty of local artists and craftspeople showcase their creations, whether that be hand-crafted wooden postcards, gorgeous photos of the city, knitted hats for adults and children, bread-baking kits from local bakeries, ornate lamps, adorable stuffed animals—the whole shebang.

food stand christmas market
Liquid courage (and other treats) is on offer. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Of course, there are the requisite German Christmas market treats like smoked salmon, roasted nuts, sausages, and fried mushrooms—though it’s easy to see how this could start getting a little raunchy, especially in the red-light district.

It’s a vibe that has existed in this area since the 1600s, when sailors came here in search of entertainment after their months at sea. Up sprouted bars, clubs, cafes, theaters, bordellos, you name it. You could find burlesque shows, circus performances, classical music concerts, and operas. By the 1960s, musicians and artists found refuge along the streets, which served as inspiration for The Beatles (who briefly lived here) and songs by The Police, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, and Tom Waits.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
These aren’t your average Christmas market stalls. | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

Nowadays, most of the grit from yesteryear has been dusted off, but an edge remains. And everything that comes with red-light life—the prostitution, drugs, and random squabbles—still do exist, though it’s hardly bothersome to the crowd of family-friendly faces (all 18+, of course) lining up to join the enclosed Santa Pauli festivities. Those “family-friendly faces,” though, quickly turn wide-eyed when we reach the evening’s ribald entertainment. Each night of the advent promises plenty for ogling.

At night’s end, you’re invited to enjoy some refractory period bliss on the Winter Deck. Here, you can sit beneath hanging Christmas trees, next to a bonfire, while you sip drinks titled “bordsteinschwalbe” (Hamburg slang for prostitute) or “nussknacker” (nutcracker).

It’s an unexpectedly gemütlich, or cozy, setting, considering the sea of sex surrounding, well, everything else.

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Tom Burson is a contributor for Thrillist.