A Jew Walks into the Christkindlmarket

A Jew Walks into the Christkindlmarket
Nutcrackers at the Christkindlmarket

I’ve lived in Chicago for over four years but have never made it to the Christkindlmarket, the annual, outdoor German Christmas market on Daley Plaza. Yes, you could think it’s because I’m Jewish, but I love outdoor festivals and cultural events, so that’s not it. I simply hadn’t gotten around to it. Not until, that is, my best friend and Christmas enthusiastic came for a visit to Chicago. It was the perfect excuse.

A little background….The market’s namesake and inspiration comes from the Christkindlsmarket that began in 1545 in Nuremberg, Germany. In German tradition, either Christkind, a mythical fairy-like creature on which the name of the market is based, or Weinnachtsmann, better known to us as Santa Claus, brought Christmas gifts.

At today’s Chicago version of the market, vendors from around the world, especially Germany, sell beautiful (albeit generally pricey) Christmas décor out of quaint European village inspired mini-shops. Despite not being able to find a Hanukah ornament for my best friend’s Christmas tree (I was only able to find one menorah ornament, and it was pretty ugly), I was largely impressed with the craftsmanship of the items there: intricate ornaments, detailed cuckoo clocks (some costing over $1,000), nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes, and candle-powered Christmas pyramids, which I had never even heard of before going to the market (thank goodness my friend was there to explain Christmas stuff to me).

Ornaments at the Christkindlmarket

Many of the items reminded me of fairy tales from my childhood – no surprise considering the German origin (like the Brothers Grimm) of so many of the stories we grew up with. Between that and the Disney-like atmosphere of the market, I could not stop thinking what a magical place the market would be for a child. And for the adults, there is plenty of spiced warm wine and good food.

Enjoying some good food at the Christkindlmarket

Try the Christkindlmarket from now until December 24 at the Daley Plaza.

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    the Christkind is not a fairy like creature. It means in German the Christ Child.

  • Hi Andy! This definitely is not my area of expertise, but I did get that information from the Christkindlmarket website (http://www.christkindlmarket.com/en/visitor-information/the-christkind/). Wonder if it means both, or different things to different folks? Either way, thanks so much for reading!

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