As part of the Protestant reformation of Europe, Martin Luther sought to rid his followers of Catholic cultural remnants and thus sent good ol’ Saint Nicholas packing in favor of the Christ-child (or in German, Christkind). Within a few centuries, many Protestants dismissed the spritely Christ-child in favor of Father Christmas and, ironically, many Catholics adopted the Christ-child holiday. [source]
Humorously, the nickname “Kris Kringle” is a derivative of the term Christkindl.
Christkindlmarkets pop up across Europe and America over the holiday season and typically feature handmade ornaments and crafts as well as traditional German food such as bratwurst and Glüwein – a hot, spiced mulled wine often served in a small porcelain boot. Chicago’s Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza is one of America’s favorite holiday markets and gave me an excuse to huddle into my coat and ooh and aah over darling handcrafted trinkets with my mom over our trip home for Christmas.
When I first visited the Christkindlmarket two years ago I began the German Christmas tradition in my family of hiding the “Christmas pickle” (literally, a green pickle shaped ornament) in the tree. In some families the one who finds the pickle gets a special gift, but sometimes we just allow that person to open the first present. Since the pickle is small and, well, Christmas tree colored, its a fun little challenge.
This year, my favorite gift from the market was a tiny tea light votive from my mother. There were so many little treasures to uncover, like these cuckoo clocks and paper stars.
There is something incredibly magnetic about Chicago at Christmas time. The every-night lights of the streets downtown give off a different glow when framed by lighted branches and holiday window displays. Regular sites such as the horse-drawn carriages at the Water Tower or an up-lit church step out of their everyday places and really shine for the season.
Chicago’s Christkindlmarket typically runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve each year. Find out more about the event here.