Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christkindlmarket, Chicago

Chicago's Picasso standing watch over Christkindlmarket
This year saw the closing of my favorite restaurant in the world, Karl Ratzsch's in Milwaukee, as well as the imminent demise of one of this city's last German eating establishments, Chicago Brauhaus. While the sit down German restaurant is becoming a thing of the past in this country, Teutonic holiday festivals have never been more popular. My guess is that while the expensive comfort food with high caloric content your parents liked to eat is fast losing its appeal among young, educated, health conscious, gastronomically adventurous Americans, in other words, the majority of people who eat out in this country, drinking never goes out of style. That's why Oktoberfest is behind only New Years Eve and St. Patrick's Day as this country's favorite bacchanalia.

The Advent holiday festival market, Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christkindlmarkt, is a tradition that began in the Middle Ages in Germany and spread throughout Europe. The typical Advent/Christmas market  found in the center of just about every German town, consists of stands where vendors sell Christmas themed wares, food and of course, drink. Visitors can eat and drink either while strolling from stand to stand, or in some markets, they can sit down and eat in a heated tent which often provides a performance space for musicians.  Here in this country, Christkindlmarket with the extra "e", is a recent tradition. Chicago's first Christkindlmarket, held annually during the four weeks before Christmas, took place in 1996.

On their website, the market's organizers claim this one is modeled after the one in Nuremberg. I haven't been there, but can attest to the authenticity of Chicago's Christmas market as I visited more than one much like it in Berlin during my visit to the German capital in 1994. There is one significant difference between the original and its American counterpart. In Germany, the stands selling goods feature local handmade toys and crafts that typically sell in the 1 to 20 dollar range. As you can see from the pictures here, the items for sale in Chicago, be they ornaments, beer stiens, or other assorted imported bric-a-brac, are much pricier. My guess is that the vendors, most of whom come from Germany and other parts of Europe, would find it difficult justifying the expense of selling their wares thousands of miles from home for the kind of money they would get if they stayed put.

Nevertheless, the satisfying feeling of genial well being, coziness and happiness, or as the Germans call it, Gemutlichkeit, is the same, especially after drinking ein gutes Deutsches Bier, oder zwei.

You can feast on your knockwurst, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and Glühwein either al fresco,...
...or inside a heated tent as these  Loop workers did the other day.

A typical sampling of the items you can find at Chicago's Christkindlmarket

A vendor direct from Germany selling shiny objects for Zuhause...
...and another selling more sedate hand painted ornaments for the the Weihnachtsbaum

And of course, what would a German market be without beer steins?

Chicago's Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza is open every day until Christmas Eve, 11am until 8pm, and until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

There are two other similar markets in the Chicago area, one outside of Wrigley Field and the other in the suburb of Naperville.

Here is a link to their website.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

No comments: