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

Naked Santa, strip teases, pornokaraoke—and glühwein with roasted nuts, of course.

Santa Claus sits naked, drinking beer, and pouring liquor in glühwein. Nearby, two drunk men are caroling in front of fifty-odd onlookers. They’re not crooning along to “O Tannenbaum” or “Jingle Bells,” but rather performing something called “Pornokaraoke.” Oh, and there’s a topless drag queen named Ella Mortadella in a Santa hat, happily orchestrating it all. This is just another night at Germany’s most bizarre Christmas Market, the annual XXXmas Market, “Santa Pauli,” held along Hamburg’s Reeperbahn red-light district.

There are no fairy-tale-looking wooden stalls or angelic choirs at Santa Pauli; such romanticism has been replaced with a different kind of romance—one with, for example, a Christmas tree covered not in twinkling lights, but rather fluorescent dildoes. Instead of hand-carved nativity scenes, nutcrackers, or Räuchermannchen, the shops here make way for bondage-themed ornaments, body piercing jewels, skull décor, hand-carved splinter-free wooden dildoes, and holiday-inspired sex toys—think jingle balls instead of bells.

Ho-ho-ho! | Photo by Marius Roeer

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. According to Bohnsack, the goal was to create a Christmas market that fit the personality of the St. Pauli region in Hamburg.

Oh there will be entertainment. | Photo by Marius Roeer

“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 isn’t the only unique Christmas Market in the city. There’s also a doggie market (closed this year, sadly, but usually on the docket), and even an entire Winter Pride calendar complete with plenty of glühwein, DJs, and local LGBTQ+ organizations sharing their stories and collecting donations.

It almost looks wholesome from this angle. | Photo by Marius Roeer

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 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 dotted across Hamburg, entirely jolly.

Looks like Santa’s had one too many glühwein. | Photo by Julia Schwendner

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 very 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.

Venture a little deeper into an area called the “Strip Forest,” where every hour on the hour is a new strip tease performance. Here, you can succumb to some holiday boudoir as people of all genders titillate curios partygoers with their gyrations.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
It’s an actual Christmas market, too! | SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt

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 craftsmen showcase their creations, whether that be hand-crafted wooden postcards, gorgeous photos of the city of Hamburg, knitted hats for adults and children, bread-baking kits from local bakeries, ornate lamps, adorable stuffed animals, the whole shebang.

SANTA PAULI - Hamburgs geilster Weihnachtsmarkt
Wouldn’t be Germany without the gooey goodness. | 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.

Red-nosed reindeer, red Santa suit, red light district… | Photo by Marius Roeer

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. Centuries later, 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, Tom Waits, the list goes on.

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.

Hamburg’s Reeperbahn district makes for the perfect, raunchy background. | Photo by Marius Roeer

This year, the team is practicing safe… celebrations and using a little extra protection such as requiring all guests to be either vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID to attend the festivities. “It’s a queasy feeling, like flying blind,” Bohnsack acknowledges to a local magazine. “Let’s hope for the best.”

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 and next to a bonfire while you sip a mulled wine dangerously titled “The Nutcracker.” It’s an unexpectedly gemütlich setting, considering the sea of sex surrounding, well, everything else.

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Tom Burson is a contributor for Thrillist.