A common complaint about the holiday season is that it's become too commercial, too materialistic, simply too much. But one Chicago holiday mainstay is returning to its roots, with a focus on families and tradition.
Christkindlmarket, the charming village situated on Daley Plaza, is well known as an open-air market that harkens back to Nuremberg, Germany. And although it's always been a place for families, the market's popularity means it can be overwhelming to visit with kids.
"We really want it to be focused on the family feeling of the holiday season," says Morgan Kingsland, assistant manager for German American Services Inc., which puts on the market. "We'd rather not be as big of a commercial event and keep it about history and tradition."
A new Kinder Korner aims to get kids investigating the market and interacting with vendors, many of whom hail from Germany. Kids can pick up a "passport" at the information counter and get it stamped at designated vendors (Kingsland hints there might be prizes at stake).
The passport also contains activities, coloring pages and word searches, as well as German translations for items they'll see around the market.
"We want to keep it educational, as well as fun," Kingsland says. "We're trying to focus more on getting them to explore the market."
Kingsland says there are many vendors that appeal to kids, including Toy Wonderland, Bear Hands and Buddies, and the three large ornament houses, which are great places to warm up. Plus, the Sweet Castle sells all types of yummy treats, and Dinkel's Bakery serves up hot chocolate in those famous boot-shaped mugs.
She thinks the performances (check website for schedule) are an especially good opportunity to take a break from the shopping.
The website also has a Kinder Korner section, with fun scavenger hunts that help direct kids' exploration and give specific questions to ask vendors.
Although there's no physical "Kinder Korner," two kid-friendly events take place during the monthlong run: a visit by the regal-looking Christkind (Christmas Fairy) on Nov. 21-22 and the Children's Lantern Parade on Dec. 5.
It all works to achieve Christkindlmarket's goal, in Kingsland's words: "We really just wanted to bring it back to focus on families."
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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