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History of Chicago Loop’s Christkindlmarket

Posted  6 years ago  in  Family Friendly, Then and Now

Christkindlmarket brings a century-old tradition to Chicago’s holiday spirit.

The Christkindlmarket, which literally means Christ Child Market in Deutch, was inspired by the 16th-century Christkindelmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany. It was a pre-Christmas celebration to usher in Advent. Typically held in Main Market Square, it is accompanied by traditional singing and dancing to bring light and joy to the cold, dark season.

With festively decorated booths, the market was an opportunity for people to stock up on food and supplies for the cold months. Craftspeople sold baskets, woodcarvings, toys, wooden smokers, cuckoo clocks, and souvenirs, while villagers bought and sold homemade Christmas ornaments as well as decorations. There were also food items including nuts, almonds, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and different baked products, which were traditional gifts for Christmas and New Year’s Day.

CKM Chicago 2016 / Photo Courtesy of True Shot Studios

Eventually, the Christmas market expanded globally to cities where there is a moderate size of German-speaking population. The first Christkindlmarket came to Chicago in 1996. It was part of The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc.‘s effort to promote bilateral trade between the United States and Germany. It was first held at Pioneer Court but moved to Daley Plaza the following year by a special invitation from Mayor Richard Daley and has been there ever since.

Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza - Photo by Jim Prisching

An open-air pop-up market, Christkindlmarket brings an international flair to Chicago’s holiday spirit. Nestled at Daley Plaza for over two decades, it has been a gathering place for friends and family to shop and enjoy stunning performances while sipping on hot spiced wine (Glühwein) served in a collectible mug. With over a million in attendance annually, it marks the most wonderful time of the year for Chicagoans.

CMK 2016 / Photo by Kameron Sears

This year, the market will be open to the public admission-free from November 16 to December 24. Two new vendors make their debut at the market this year:  Baked Cheese Haus will bring their delicious Raclette sandwiches to Chicago, and Chiya Chai and Pie will serve their tasty treats. Guests will enjoy the performances while shopping and can say hello to the Christkind, a fairy-like being who is the namesake of the Christkindlmarket.

Guests can also reserve a “Stammtisch,” a famous German tradition of a shared table, to enjoy food and drinks inside the heated Timber Haus. For more information, visit Chriskindlmarket.com/Chicago

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