Christkindl Markets: Old-World Charm for a Modern Christmas

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

Learn more:

Christkindlmarket, Chicago

Carolers sing in Chicago's Christkindl Market

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

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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

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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

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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

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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,

Denver Christkindl Market, Denver, Colorado

November 16-December 23,

Christkindlmarkt, Helen, Georgia

December 1–2, 8–9,

Christkindlmarket Naperville, Illinois

November 23–December 24,

Christkindlmarkt, Carmel, Indiana

November 17–December 23,

Christmas Village, Baltimore, Maryland

November 22–December 24,

Holiday Kerstmarkt, Holland, Michigan

November 17–December 8,

European Christmas Market of Minnesota, St. Paul

November 30–December 9,

Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt, Cincinnati, Ohio

Weekends through December 20,

Christmas Village, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 22–December 24,

The Christmas Market, Arlington, Texas

November 23–December 31,

Downtown Holiday Market, Washington DC

November 23–December 23,

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.

A Plea for Conscientious Gift-Giving

The madness of Black Friday has become so ingrained in American culture that it can be difficult to imagine a time before it. However, in 1905, the Post’s editors felt compelled to let readers know that the weekend after Thanksgiving would be a good time to start shopping for Christmas gifts “in calmness and deliberation, without recklessness, without hysteria.”

The editors also offered some general guidance for choosing meaningful gifts that still rings true more than a century later.

An editorial clipping from The Saturday Evening Post, that reads: "Now is the time to buy your Christmas gifts. Don't leave it until the last minute; don't wait until prices have soared, and the stocks have been picked over, and shoppers tand a dozen deep before the counters. Buy now, in calmness and deliberation, without recklessness, without hysteria. Don't buy trashy ornaments. Don't send the stuff that makes the recipient say: "What a waste of money!" Buy things that are of use — of use to the person who is to get them. Don't buy expensive presents. No proper-minded person likes to receive an expensive present, one he knows the give could not well afford; and it goes without saying that no one likes to give a present he couldn't afford. Above all, let the present show that you have really thought about the person you are giving it to — have thought about his or her tastes and wants."
The editorial as it appeared on December 2, 1905




The Year of Two Thanksgivings

With all the concerns about Christmas — or at least Christmas shopping — intruding on Thanksgiving, maybe Thanksgiving should always be the last Thursday of the month. That was the day Lincoln set aside as the national day of giving thanks in 1863.

But in 1939, President Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday of November.

Naturally, many Americans were displeased with the change. They didn’t like having their holiday traditions moved around. And many were upset over Roosevelt’s reason for the move.

That year, Thanksgiving landed on the last day of November. Consequently the Christmas shopping season, which Thanksgiving traditionally marked even then, would be only 24 days long. Hoping to help retailers by extending the shopping season, Roosevelt moved the holiday—and the traditional start of shopping—back one week.

But many Americans had already made plans for the holiday. Football teams had already scheduled their last games of the season — traditionally played on Thanksgiving Day — on the 30th. The new date became a political issue. Republicans who claimed Franklin Roosevelt was tampering with Lincoln’s memory by moving the holiday opposed the holiday’s move and referred to the new date as “Franksgiving.” A New York Times poll showed Republicans opposed the move by 79 percent, Democrats by 48 percent.

Meanwhile, the dueling dates provided material for humorists, like the poet who wrote this item for the Post on October 14, 1939:

Feminine Urge

For practical reasons, Thanksgiving’s been changed,

So I’m thinking of pulling a fast one

By changing my birthday, on account of it comes

Too soon after the last one.

And Jack Benny’s writers worked the topic over for his November 19 show.

In this clip from The Jack Benny Program, Benny’s wife and co-star, Mary Livingstone, reads her poem about the confusion the two Thanksgivings caused. The first voice you’ll hear is Jack Benny. The second male voice is Benny’s announcer, Don Wilson. The third man, who is “all set to be one of them pilgrims,” is bandleader Phil Harris, who played the character of a vain and ignorant playboy. And the fourth is a writer who would occasionally come in to deliver one-liners.

Listen to the clip from Jack Benny’s November 19th, 1939 show