What is a Christkindmarkt
Christmas markets offer distinctive year-round giftsChristkindmarkt is a German word meaning Christ Child Market, a festive holiday street fair where you can buy gifts and sample or dine on a variety of traditional Bavarian culinary goodies in a multitude of decorated vendor booths and tents.
Christkindmarkts date back to medieval Germany and Martin Luther (1483-1546), the priest who, according to legend, nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses disputing Roman Catholic teachings to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517, thereby starting the Protestant Reformation. He also revolutionized the custom of holiday gift-giving. Instead of presenting children with their Christmas gifts on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicolas, Luther started the practice of giving gifts on Christmas Eve, telling the children that they were from the Christkind; i.e., the Christ Child.
Bavarian-style holiday markets have spread across the world ever since and now are held in virtually every European country and in many American cities. They occur during the Advent season, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. Some are open for only a few days, some for weeks, and specialty catalogs offer Christkindmarkt gifts all year long.
Atmosphere and Events
Visiting a Christkindmarkt is great family fun and a sure way to get into the holiday spirit. A decorated festival by day and a lighted wonderland by night, it’s easy to spend many, many hours at these outdoor fairs enjoying the sights, sounds, activities, foods, beverages, and shopping. If the weather is overly cold, people can gather in heated tents to warm up and rest before starting off again on new adventures and discoveries.
While each market is unique, most feature live music performances by local musicians and dance groups, food and beverage booths and tents (often with sit-down dining), and plenty of children’s activities. Some have a Ferris wheel or merry-go-round. Others have glassblowing demonstrations and workshops, ice sculptures, sing-alongs, and a variety of additional activities.
Many have the ever-popular Breakfast with Santa where kids get to eat their fill and drink their hot chocolate with the Jolly Old Elf himself and of course sit on his lap to tell him their Christmas wishes and get their pictures taken.
Since the Christkind is the German version of Santa Claus, many markets have their own Christkind, a young maiden dressed in white and gold garments and wearing a gold crown atop her traditionally long blonde curly hair. Usually she’s introduced at the opening ceremonies and then roves the market telling Christmas stories, greeting visitors, and providing photo opportunities.
Foods and beverages
No holiday market outing is complete without enjoying some bratwurst, saurkraut, wienerschnitzel, or sauerbraten, accompanied by German beer or wine and topped off by apfelkuchen (pastry with sliced apples), marzipan (almond candy), or Christmas Stollen (cake with dried fruit, nuts, and spices) for dessert.
Christkindmarkts attract local, regional, and even nationally-recognized artisans and craftsmen as vendors, whose booths and tents are replete with one-of-a-kind creations. Many, of course. are specific to Christmas – it is, after all, a Christmas market – such as handmade wood, glass, or ceramic tree ornaments, Advent wreaths, Nativity sets, nutcrackers, decorated stockings for hanging above the fireplace, and figurines of Santa, reindeer, elves, trees, packages, sleighs, and angels.
Other things, however, are appropriate for year-round gift occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, weddings, showers, and anniversaries. Be on the lookout for toys, jewelry, music boxes, beer steins and pilsners, pottery, incense burners, clocks, tote bags, and any number of collectibles.
Major American Holiday Markets in 2016
Christkindl Market – Denver, CO
Atlanta Christkindl Market – Atlanta, GA
Christkindlmarkt – Helen, GA
Chicago Christkindlmarket – Chicago, IL
Naperville Christkindlmarket – Naperville, IL
Christkindlmarkt – Ferdinand, IN
Christkindlmarket Des Moines – Des Moines, IA
Christkindlmarkt – Baltimore, MD
Minneapolis Holidazzle – Minneapolis, MN
Christkindlmarkt – Rolla, MO
Old World Christmas Market – Nashua, NH
Weihnachtsmarkt – Sparta, NJ
Canandaigua Christkindl Market – Canandaigua, NY
Columbus Circle Holiday Market – New York, NY
Holiday Shops – Bryant Park, New York, NY
Union Square Holiday Market – New York, NY
Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt – Cincinnati, OH
Germania Society Christkindlmarkt – Cincinnati, OH
Christkindlmarkt – Tulsa, OK
Christkindlmarkt – Bethlehem, PA
Weihnachtsmarkt – Harmony, PA
Christkindl Market – Mifflinburg, PA
Christmas Village – Philadelphia, PA
Peoples Holiday Market – Pittsburgh, PA
Texas Christkindl Market – Arlington, TX
Weihnachtsmarkt – New Braunfels, TX
Christkindlmarkt – Leavenworth, WA
Christkindlmarkt – Monroe, WI
Downtown Holiday Market – Washington, D.C.
If you’re unable to visit a Holiday Market in person, but you’d love to start giving beautiful unique Bavarian-style gifts, don’t forget that you can buy them all year long from specialty catalogs.