Market brings Christmas cheer

By WilliamPrentiss

Christmas is right around the corner and Chicagoans are celebrating the holiday season with a trip to the market.

Event organizers kicked off Christkindlmarket Chicago’s 14th year on Nov. 25 with the annual tree lighting ceremony at Daley Plaza and live musical performances. Over 50 vendors, a majority of them traveling all the way from Germany to participate, have set up shop to sell a plethora of German delicacies and holiday treats, including gingerbread cookies, nutcrackers, jewelry and hot spiced wine. Customers are served the wine in their own souvenir boot.

Sonja Bauer, Christkindlmarket assistant manager, said this year’s celebration has gone well so far. Bauer said the weather has stayed pleasant and a steady crowd has been coming to the market. She said her favorite part of the celebration has been the candy and wine.

“I personally like sweets, so I’m excited to have all the German candy here,” Bauer said. “The German hot spiced wine, which is also directly imported from Nürnberg by the way, is also really good.”

The first Christkindlmarket Chicago was organized in 1996 and was inspired by the one held in Nuremberg, Germany, which dates back to 1527. Its name comes from the myth of the Christkindl, a fairy dressed in gold and white robes who traditionally is said to give gifts to all the children in German-speaking countries. As a part of the opening ceremony, someone will recite the traditionally welcoming words spoken by the Christkindl.

Bauer was born in Nuremberg, and returned there for college after living in Washington, D.C. She moved to Chicago a year and a half ago and began working for German American Services Inc. shortly thereafter. She said the organizer’s goal is to give visitors a serene Christmas feeling and take them away from the hustle and bustle under Chicago’s skyscrapers.

One major difference in this year’s market is the tree. Normally it would be made up of more than 100 smaller trees stacked on a wooden frame, but this year’s is only one tree, which was donated by the Weivoda Family in Palos Heights, Ill.

Brian Marchal has lived in Chicago for the past eight years, but has only visited the market once before last year. He said he’s a fan of the powdered pecans and the ornaments, one of which made a nice gift for his mom last year. He said he has visited Germany before and appreciates being able to connect to his heritage at the market.

“I care about it,” Marchal said. “It’s nice to see where you come from and the traditions. Experiencing other cultures is what it’s about.”

The day Marchal visited the market, a steady sleet was falling, but he said he didn’t mind much.

“My company has had lots of rounds of layoffs, so even though I’ve gotten by, it’s definitely affected other family members who have been let go,” Marchal said. “It helps put you back in the Christmas mood. With the tough economy, it’s still nice to come buy all of this stuff.”

Max McGee shopped for candy with his wife and mother-in-law. He went to Christkindlmarket last year and said he noticed all the items being sold cost more than they did the year before. He also said the tree is lacking.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about is the tree kind of looks sick compared to last year’s,” McGee said.

Every Friday and Saturday, a folk band will play for the gathered crowd. Events are held throughout the market until its final day on Dec. 24.

For event listings and more information about this year’s Christkindlmarket, visit their Web site at Market hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.