The Christmas market in Bautzen is held from Friday before 1st Advent until 4th Advent (Sunday). A market at this time of the year was first mentioned in 1384 when King Vaclav (Wenzel in German) gave the town the privilege to hold a market for meat. This market turned into a Christmas market as we know them over the centuries. In honour of King Vaclav (Wenzel) the Christmas market in Bautzen is named "Wenzelsmarkt".
The market stretches from the Hauptmarkt in front of the town hall along Reichenstrasse to Kornmarkt. In about 80 stalls merchants sell the usual stuff - from bratwurst and Stollen, gingerbread and glühwein to woodcarved Christmas items and candles. However, if you have a closer look you might also find typical local/regional goodies like pottery or glass beads from Jablonec/Czech Republic.
The Glühwein we had was ok but nothing special; the point was, however, that it was *hot* which was *VERY* welcome since the temps were around -15 C/ 5 F and the wind picked up. Freeeeeezing.
On Easter Sunday the men, dressed in tailcoat and stovepipe hat, in catholic Sorbian villages/towns get their beautifully decorated horses and ride from their town to the neighbouring one to spread the message of Jesus Christ's resurrection. Tradition is that the men of the other town reciprocate. So you can see quite a number of those processions going from one town to the other and back on Easter Sunday! They must make sure not to cross each other's path, though.
Head of the processions are the men who carry the banners, then comes the guys who carry the statue of Jesus and of the cross, following them the other men, singing Sorbian religious songs. Before they leave their own town a service is held, they ride around their church and are blessed by their priest. Upon arrival in the other town they get a meal, celebrate a mass and are getting blessed by their priest. And back they go.
Your best chances to see such a procession are in Bautzen, Wittichenau, Radibor and the Panschwitz-Kuckau (Cistercian convent). All in all about 2,000 men participate but the number of spectators is about 10 or 20 times higher.
Originally this custom goes back to pagan times - to ban the winter and ask for a good harvest. After Christianization the custom survived for quite a long time; first in 1541 (in Wittichenau) it was turned into the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection.
Another Easter tradition is to create wreaths made of twigs of evergreens with colourful ribbons. Smaller examples are made for homes, but (see picture) even the larger fountain in front of the Cathedral in Bautzen can be turned into one! The smaller ones in the homes are often filled with the painted Easter eggs.
Other Easter decorations are woocarved items made here or in the Erzgebirge mountains (Seiffen!) or bouquets of birch tree twigs with painted Easter eggs (again).
A traditional local custom is to decorate Easter Eggs. It is widely known in slavic countries so it is only natural the Sorbs around Bautzen do it also. And they're masters of that art!
The eggs are blown out or boiled hard. There are several techniques to decorate the eggs. To name a few: One is to 'simply' paint a pattern in different colours. Another is to paint them and to scratch out the pattern. Yet another is to put wax in a pattern on the egg, then put the egg in liquid colour and warm up the egg so the wax melts and leaves a pattern - this can be done multiple times so the pattern gets more and more complicated.
Best thing is to go and see yourself. Around (best before) Easter holidays these techniques are often demonstrated in museums (like the Sorbian museum in Bautzen or the Folk Art Museum in Dresden) or in shops and public get-togethers.
The result of both Germans and Sorbians living in the area is that you'll see bilingual signs/plates. Dominating language is German but if you're Czech or Polish you might try to talk to people in your own language - the Sorbian spoken around Bautzen is closer to Czech than Polish, though.
Please note that Sorbs have the right to speak their language at court or in administrative matters. Might help you if you get a fine from the police ...
All people in the area speak German, also the Sorbs. Few Germans speak Sorbian, which is a shame IMO.
When arriving in Bautzen you'll notice quickly that the town has two names, Bautzen and Budyšin. Many signs are bilingual. This is the centre of the country of the Sorbs, the Lausitz or Lužica. Some 60,000 Sorbs are living in this region. Saxony's prime minister Stanislaw Tillich is a Sorb.
The Sorbs are one of three native non-German speaking minorities within the borders of Germany who have been living there at least since the middle ages (the other two are the Frisians in the far northwest and the Danes in North Schleswig). The Sorbs are of Slavic origin. While most Slavic tribes were either either persecuted, driven away or germanized already in the early middle ages, the Sorbs have found a niche to stay, survive and preserve their language and culture.
In the 19th century a Sorbian national movement awote. Their organization "Domowina" was founded in 1912.
The Nazi regime persecuted them but in DDR times they suddenly became a treasured minority with guaranteed rights which was proudly presented to the brother countries in Eastern Europe. However, their folklore was treasured, not independent opinions. Lots of DDR postage stamp depict the colourful Sorbian traditional dresses and craftwork.
Nowadays about 150 Sorbian communities exist. Schools teach Sorbian. Traditions are kept alive. The presence of this people is impossible to overlook in and around Bautzen.
The Christmas market fills Hauptmarkt square, the whole length of Reichenstraße to Reichenturm and a part of Kornmarkt square. It takes place during the four weeks of Advent but terminates already on the 4th Advent Sunday.
Sorbian traditions show up in the market but you have to look for them. Some stalls have local products, others sell the usual international knickknack or even socks and household items.
For the Glühwein cup collectors, the Bautzen ones come in various combination of colours but all have bilingual inscriptions in Sorbian and German.
At minus 15 degrees and during a snowstorm even Glühwein does not help any more, though...