Discover a German Tradition at the Christkindl Market in Chicago
The winter markets in Europe are a unique experience. The music, the lights, and mulled wine bring in guests from all over the world, myself included. Four years ago, I strolled through the streets of Berlin in a Christmas market near the city center. I order a hot sweet pretzel and a hot chocolate and visit the booths to see all the unique things for sale. It was magical. I hadn’t experienced anything like the Christmas markets in Europe.That is until I went to the Christkindl Market in the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.
I ride the train down to the city on a sunny Sunday morning. The commuter train to the town is so peaceful that I don’t mind the ride. I have three layers on. I wear two pairs of leggings, a shirt under my sweater, and an oversized plaid coat with hand warmers in each pocket. Chicago is the ideal place for a winter wonderland, but I was not about to shiver in the cold for a couple of hours at the market.
The German markets mean more to me this time than my trip to Berlin. I knew then that my great-grandma was German, but I didn’t know much else. Since then, I have started taking German lessons with my friend Elke, and my Dad and I have been practicing German together. Although I have taken courses in Italian and Spanish, speaking German was different. It made me feel connected to my German ancestors in some way, and today as I approach the Christkindl market, I can’t help but wonder if my great-grandmother ever attended anything similar.
The train ride is short, and the markets are only a few blocks from Union Station. I walk past the Chicago River and the Opera theatre. When I turn on Clark street, that is when I know I am getting close. Over a million attendees come through the Christkindl market every year, and I am excited to be one of them this year. When I first lay eyes on the German Chriskindl market, I see booths that look like mini German houses with roofs draped in lights and garlands. Vendors sell trinkets from all over the county, India, Brazil, and of course, Germany.
Before any of my purchases, I want to get what I came here for… THE FOOD. I had been eying the bratwurst with sauerkraut since I first entered the market.
As I am getting a good look at the menus, I realize something. Several vendors would accept credit cards but if you want to eat food, bring cash. Fortunately, there is an ATM around the corner. I attempt to take money out of it but I need help to do so. I do a quick google search and find that my bank has an ATM only a few minute’s walking distances from the markets.
The pigeons are king of Christkindl
While standing in line for broths and pretzels, I noticed the pigeons had gathered around a fire pit. A whole flock was gathered around the fire, trying to get warm. All it took was one person throwing a crumb into the crowd of pigeons, and they went flying everything. It is a hilarious site to see. Unlike me, they can’t wear coats. Even pigeons need to stay warm in the Windy City.
Brats and Pretzels
Germany is known for Bratwursts and pretzels. Walking through Christkindl Market, I am giddy. I see a sign for a bratwurst with sauerkraut and giant soft pretzels. I want both. Ordering two pretzels and brats, I slip my icy fingers out of my gloves and bite the juicy brat. Immediately I am back. The flavors taste like Germany, and I feel like I am back in Berlin, just like in 2018.
The mulled wine is what I am looking forward to most at the Chriskindel market in Chicago. Mulled wine is a German tradition of steaming spicy hot red wine. When I take one sip, I melt into the cup. The fragrance of cloves and sweet wine hit my nose. It is warm, strong, red, and tastes of cinnamon. I sip the sweet red wine and stroll through the crowds to peek at everything the vendors sell.
The Christkindl market designs a ceramic souvenir mug for visitors to indulge in. This year’s design was blue, with an image of ice skaters and views of the giant Chicago skyscrapers. The mug is adorable, but if you don’t want one, there are plenty of other souvenirs you can take home.
Check out all of the vendors here.
The Christkindl market in Chicago for Christmas shopping. They offer a unique shopping experience only during the holiday season. There are a variety of vendors so that you can find something for everyone at the Christkindl Market in Chicago.
I found a German mug for my Dad. German traditions mean a lot to my Dad and me. His great-grandmother is from Germany. Connecting with our ancestors has brought us together. He has a collection of German Stein. A Germain stein is an ornate stone or clay glasses Germans use to drink beer out of, called Steinzeugkrug in German. Although I didn’t get him stein this time, I found the perfect ceramic mug. The mug has the German flag with Deutschland on the front. If I pair that with a bag of coffee, I just discovered my Dad the ideal Christmas gift.
If you don’t need a new mug, a hand-crafted ornament is the Christmas gift for everyone on your list. My favorite is the German handpainted wooden nutcracker. Still, I think you’d want something to remind you of the Christkindl market. In that case, you can take advantage of this year’s glass-blown ornament with the Christkindl handpainted. There is something for everyone’s Christmas tree.