Old World Christmas markets
Local versions of the traditional German Christkindlmarkt are a hit during the holidays.
© Beth Gauper
Chicago's Christkindlmarket draws crowds to Daley Plaza.
For 500 years, Germans have done their holiday shopping at open-air Christmas markets in town squares.
Named for the Christ child, the markets traditionally start on the first Sunday of Advent, with shoppers warming up with hot spiced wine while browsing at garland-draped timber kiosks.
It's a tradition worth importing, and that's what Chicago did in 1996 with its Christkindlmarket, where two-thirds of the
vendors come from Germany.
It's become more popular every year, and now many other towns — from the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota to
Wisconsin cheese country and the ethnic enclaves of Michigan — have markets of their own.
Many include parades, especially the traditional children's lantern procession. There's always live music, and you can usually count on getting a cone of warm sugared almonds to munch while shopping.
Here are some of the best Old World Christmas markets in 2012.
Nov. 17, 23-24, 27 and 30 and Dec. 1 and 7-8, Holiday Kerstmarkt in
Holland, Mich. This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 16 timber booths
offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.
There's a parade at 7 p.m. Nov. 27.
Nov. 20-Dec. 24, Christkindlmarket in Chicago. This is the most authentic market, with many German vendors bringing over Old World toys, ornaments and sweets to sell in their timber booths in Daley Plaza.
Food also is authentic — currywurst, potato pancakes, pretzels — with ingredients often brought from
The marked can be quite crowded, so try to go in the morning. It runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve; check the schedule for the Children's Lantern Parade and concerts on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.
For more, see Chicago at Christmas.
© Beth Gauper
In Excelsior, vendors sell goods under garland-draped tents.
Nov. 23, Christkindlmarkt in New Ulm, Minn. This is the first
Christkindlmarkt in this heavily German town west of the Twin Cities. In addition to artisans in heated tents, there will be
music, a puppet wagon theater, reindeer, appearances by German folklore characters and an Elf School for children.
There's also a Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. For more about New Ulm, see Where the Germans are.
Nov. 23-25, Christkindlsmarkt in Excelsior, Minn. In this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka, choirs and bands play for shoppers at a traditional German open-air Christmas market.
It begins with a parade Friday. For more about Excelsior, see Cruising around Excelsior.
Nov. 23-24, Christkindlmarkt in Monroe,
Wis. The sale in Turner Hall is small, but this cheese-country capital still has one foot in the Old World. Father
Christmas will appear, and homemade Swiss baked goods as well as folk arts will be offered.
For more about Monroe, see Cheese country.
Nov. 30-Dec. 9, Old World Christmas
Market at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wis. This eastern Wisconsin market,
held in a heated tent, features very good prices as well as ambiance, and some vendors come over from Germany.
Admission is $6. For details, see Old World Christmas.
Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Christkindl
Festival in Black River Falls, Wis. A candlelight procession and tree lighting
start this traditional German market fair. There's also live reindeer, a baby camel, horse-drawn wagon rides, music and a
Christkindl Night of Lights Parade.
Last updated on November 12, 2012
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