This year, skip the soulless shopping swarm at the mall and opt instead for a Christkindl market. These gorgeous European-inspired Christmas markets shimmer with handmade crafts, traditional music and dance, and intoxicating old-world holiday delicacies — think glühwein (cinnamon and clove mulled wine), fragrant gingerbread, and Weiner schnitzel.
Christmas markets began in the Middle Ages in Germany, organized during the darkest weeks of the year so folks could replenish household staples and decorate before guests arrived to celebrate Advent. Traveling traders transporting wares helped to ignite the concept in other villages around Europe, and soon, Christkindl markets became a December event in practically every town. In recent decades, nostalgic German Americans began re-creating those festive markets here, replicating tiny villages with wooden huts or tents offering traditional food and cultural curios, like Schwibbboge (candle arches), colorful ornaments and miniature Nativity scenes atop music boxes playing Christmas melodies.
Christkindl-style markets are popping up around the U.S., offering gifts and foodstuffs representing authentic holiday traditions of America’s unique patchwork of nationalities and heritages. Here are some of our favorites.
Bryant Park Winter Village, New York
Glittering glass kiosks house local crafters selling a multicultural array of ornaments, jewelry, apparel, toys, and foodstuffs. Highlights: Infinity Light’s lampshade ornaments, Joyfullook’s hand-designed art tights, United Chocolateworks’ chocolate wrenches and hammers. Also on site: Carousel and free-admission ice rink.
When: October 27–January 2
One of the oldest German Christmas markets in the U.S. Highlights: Cuckoo clocks, table laces, beer steins, homemade sausage, strudel, potato pancakes, and more. Also on site: The Christkind, a 16th-century folkloric grand-angel who roams the market reciting Christmas stories and spreading cheer. The Kinder Club hosts family-friendly activities including, holiday-themed scavenger hunts.
When: November 17–December 24
Learn more: christkindlmarket.com/chicago
Christkindlmarkt, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
On Christmas Eve 1741, this town was christened Bethlehem by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, patron of its founding Moravian community. Bethlehem was so dedicated to decking out in the holiday spirit that in 1937, it was nicknamed Christmas City, USA. Its Christkindlmarkt’s juried craft show features 150 artisans. Highlights: Käthe Wohlfarht ornaments, nutcrackers, and collectibles from Germany, and demos of glassblowing and ice-carving. Also on site: craft workshops and live music.
When: Weekends November 16–December 23
Learn more: christmascity.org/christkindlmarkt
Old World Christmas Market, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Amid traditional choral music, St. Nick greeting guests at the Osthoff REsort. Highlights: Heated tents house booths covered in fresh greens and tiny white lights displaying original nutcrackers, hand-woven sweaters, and mandeln (warm sugared almonds). Also on site: German straw ornaments, Russian nesting dolls, Czech blown-glass ornaments, Polish pottery, and fragrant foods.
When: November 30–December 9
Learn more: christmasmarketatosthoff.com
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City, California
This Dickens-esque festival transports visitors to the Christmas street markets of Victorian London. Highlights: Tearooms, pubs, parlor games, and performances by more than 800 costumed actors, dancers, and musicians from the imagination of Charles Dickens. Also on site: Shops feature handcrafted and customized goods of apothecaries, millineries, weavers, haberdashers, foundries, pewter shops, toy makers, and more.
When: November 17–December 23
Learn more: dickensfair.com
Find a Christmas Market Near You
With so many Christmas markets popping up across the U.S., you’re never too far to find one you can enjoy. Here are a few more to check out:
Mesa Christmas Market, Mesa, Arizona
November 24–December 23, mesachristmasmarket.com.
Denver Christkindl Market, Denver, Colorado
November 16-December 23, christkindlmarketdenver.com.
Christkindlmarkt, Helen, Georgia
December 1–2, 8–9, helenchamber.com/christkindlmarkt.html.
Christkindlmarket Naperville, Illinois
November 23–December 24, christkindlmarket.com/naperville/.
Christkindlmarkt, Carmel, Indiana
November 17–December 23, carmelchristkindlmarkt.com.
Christmas Village, Baltimore, Maryland
November 22–December 24, baltimore-christmas.com.
Holiday Kerstmarkt, Holland, Michigan
November 17–December 8, downtownholland.com/events/2018/kerstmarkt-begins/.
European Christmas Market of Minnesota, St. Paul
November 30–December 9, stpaulchristmasmarket.com.
Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt, Cincinnati, Ohio
Weekends through December 20, cincideutsch.com.
Christmas Village, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 22–December 24, philachristmas.com.
The Christmas Market, Arlington, Texas
November 23–December 31, enchantchristmas.com/the-market/.
Downtown Holiday Market, Washington DC
November 23–December 23, downtownholidaymarket.com
This article is from the November/December 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.