A Family Guide to a German Christmas Market Tradition, the Christkindlmarket

The 25th annual German Christmas Market returns to downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville better than ever. Find out how.

Families craving a return to beloved holiday traditions will find magic once again at this year’s Christkindlmarket. The authentic German Christmas market, which is celebrating its 25th year this year, is always a can’t-miss for a memorable outing for sweet and savory treats, family fun and gifts you simply can’t find anywhere else.

But this year, with its return after going virtual last year, might feel extra special.

“It has become a beloved holiday tradition for many,” agrees Leila Schmidt, Manager of Marketing and Intercultural communication at German American Events, which creates the magic every year at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and now in Wrigleyville at Gallagher Way. “It’s a cultural journey that families can take.”

In fact, families are at the heart of the offerings, which mirrors the original German Christmas market first started in Nuremberg. Schmidt, who can usually be found at the Christkindlmarket welcoming guests, absolutely loves the authentic market and took time out to share some of her favorite ideas to help families make the most out of their visit this year.

“I just really enjoy the whole experience because it reminds me of home as I am from Germany. A piece of home in the heart of the city,” Schmidt says.

The Christkindlmarket is open at Daley Plaza Nov. 19-24 and Nov. 19-Dec. 31 at Wrigleyville.

What kids will love

The beautiful Christkind, the fairy-like being in gold and white, is back this year, bringing with her meet-and-greets with kids and the true magic of the German holidays. She also leads the delightful Lantern Parade, another beloved German tradition. At this ticketed event, kids of all ages receive their lanterns and parade behind the Christkind through the market singing German and American holiday songs. But order your tickets to the Lantern Parade at Daley Plaza or Wrigleyville as soon as you can.

Photo credit: Christkindlmarket

Schmidt suggests families become members of the popular Kinder Club to stay in-the-know about the Christkind’s visits and other entertainment they will love.

At the market, families also should definitely pick up the free Kinder Club passports, a 24-page book of riddles, coloring pages and German-American educational info, she says. The passports include a letter search on huts throughout the market. Turning in the secret word the collected letters form at the end of the visit nets kids a goody at the info booth.

What families will love

Many of the German vendors will be back in Chicago with their traditional offerings in the red and white striped wooden huts, with favorites including handmade gifts, hand-blown glass ornaments and glassware. Families also will find vendors from other parts of the world and from right here in the Midwest.

Don’t forget to buy this year’s mug.

In addition to all of the unique gifts, families will love taking in all of the sights, sounds and tastes of the Christkindlmarket, Schmidt says.

She suggests having fun as a family sampling hot chocolate, or mulled wine for parents, from this year’s Christkindlmarket mug and roasted nuts from many of the different vendors to enjoy the variety you’ll barely find anywhere else.

Arrive ready to fill up your bellies. The tastes — whether savory or sweet (or both) is your family’s jam — are unmatched. Some to seek out include the Sweet Castle, also known as Hermann the German, for all kinds of German candy, along with local vendors such as Doenermen, Chiya Chai, Baked Cheese and Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate.

Some vendors will be at both Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville, while others will be unique to each location, she says.

While everyone knows about Bratwursts, Schmidt suggests trying some other not as known German foods, too, such as Soljanka, Rollmops or Leberkaese. “There’s something for everyone,” she adds.

The Christkindlmarket will again offer Stammtisch Table reservations in the heated Timber Haus. The benefit: You get to enjoy favorite German dishes or drinks without having to wait in line or being out in the cold. Several packages are available, including one specifically for families that comes with Kinder Club passports and Christkind crowns for the kids, and are delivered right to the table, she says.

Insider tips

The best way to enjoy the Christkindlmarket is to stroll around and take your time looking at everything while enjoying the decor and entertainment, but Schmidt has a few tips that might help families plan.

If possible, check online first before venturing out to plan your visit. Each location has information about parking, public transportation, schedules and navigating the market. By the way, strollers and pups are always welcome. Of note, strollers are not allowed inside the walk-in vendor cabinets and might be more difficult to use during bustling weekends.

At Daley Plaza, she suggests picking up a market brochure at the info booth or downloading it online to best plan out entertainment to catch, vendors to visit and specials happening. QR codes also will be visible throughout the market to help people navigate it. Because weekends are a little more bustling, families looking for less busy days might enjoy their visit on a weekday, she says.

Wrigleyville has a different appeal, will be less bustling and have a more neighborhood feel, she says. Plus, it is right at Gallagher Way, which offers its annual Winterland at the same time, with ice skating, holiday movies and Santa’s workshop, she says.

If you can’t make it in person this year, you can still catch a flavor of Christkindlmarket online. Popular last year due to the pandemic, organizers brought back the ability to order among four gift boxes and other merchandise, like the annual mug, beer stein and collector’s ornament.

Find out more about this year’s Christkindlmarket at christkindlmarket.com.

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