Christmas is upon us once again and it’s always fun to experience how different countries celebrate. A few years ago, my close friend and I backpacked around Europe for a couple of weeks during the Christmas holiday. My friend is always eager to get into the Christmas spirit as soon as possible so we added the Nuremberg Christmas market, which is known as one of the best, to our list of destinations. Several weeks before Christmas red- and white-striped crested wooden open-air stalls decorated with garlands and twinkle lights sprout to life in the town’s main square filled with an abundance of Christmas ornaments, decorations, toys and typical German treats. Although Germany is known to have renowned Christmas markets, you can find them in popular town squares all across Europe. I remember I was bundled up in my parka drinking Gluhwein — hot, spiced wine — in a red boot shaped commemorative mug, eating bratwurst, candied almonds and picking out unique gifts for my family and friends. It was the perfect experience to get me into the holiday spirit!
When I returned home, I boasted to my family about my Christmas market experience describing the Christmas village that is built each and every year before the holiday and all the beautiful hand painted ornaments and wooden decorations. They listened intently and in awe, but later on my sister informed me that if I ever wanted to experience the Christmas market once again I wouldn’t have to trek all the way back to Europe to enjoy it. Instead I could visit her and go to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago that is actually inspired by the Nuremberg market. Several of the vendors even travel all the way from Germany to bring this unique holiday experience to us here in the US.
This past week I have been in Chicago visiting my sister, so we decided we must make a trip to the Christkindlmarket. The minute my sister and I stepped foot into Daley Plaza I felt as though I were back at the Nuremberg Christmas market. Here’s what you’ll find at a Christmas market in the US:
Just like the Nuremberg Christmas market, several stalls were filled with beautiful blown glass ornaments in every shape and color. Of course there are plenty of seasonal decor items including nutcrackers and exquisite hand painted pewter nativity scenes. If you have always wanted a traditional German beer stein, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
I highly recommend visiting the market on an empty stomach so you can enjoy as many treats as possible. Choose from traditional German foods such as bratwurst, schnitzel, goulash and potato pancakes. Enjoy your treats and warm up with Gluhwein and remember to keep your boot shaped souvenir mug! After making the rounds and purchasing your must have items, try strudel or crepes for dessert. Who am I kidding, just get both! Lastly, snag some candied nuts in a cone shaped to-go bag as you leave the market. The cinnamon and sugar covered cashews are delicious!
If you have been itching for a trip overseas to experience the magical Christmas markets, no need to spend the money to fly all the way to Europe. Here is a list of all the Christmas markets that occur every year in various cities throughout the US, so you can find the closest one to you.