The name "Christkindlmarket" originates from the mythical tale of the Christkind (the name changes depending on regional provenance to the diminuitive like Christkindl, Christkindle, and Christkindel). She is a fairy-like being, dressed in a gold and white robe with a crown atop her golden locks. Depending on region and family tradition, either the "Christkind" (pronounced Kristkint) or the "Weihnachtsmann" (Father Christmas or better known as Santa Claus) will be the bearer of gifts.
The tradition of the Christkind is known among German-speaking countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as in the Czech Republic, Italy, Liechtenstein, and even some South American countries.
History and Tradition
Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in 1545, the Christkindlmarket Chicago brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago. Chicago's largest open-air Christmas festival was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996. By special invitation of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since. Together with the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Christkindlmarket Chicago has grown to become one of the most popular winter attractions in the heart of the city.
The vision of the Christkindlmarket Chicago was first conceptualized in 1995. The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. (GACCoM) Consulting Services was seeking alternative ways to promote bilateral trade between the USA and Germany. Peter Flatzek, former Vice President of GACCoM, and Ray Lotter, then Manager of Commercial Services for GACCoM, initiated the partnership with the city officials of Nuremberg, Germany. Mr. Lotter invited companies from Germany and the Chicago area to participate in the first Christkindlmarket Chicago in 1996. The market was an instant success and continues to flourish.
The Christkindlmarket Chicago is also the perfect place for teachers and professors of the German language to bring their students. Here, they have the opportunity to practice skills at the market with numerous German speaking vendors. Several educational activities for students visiting the market include: scavenger hunts, interviews with vendors, or even singing German holiday songs for all to enjoy. At the market, students get to experience authentic German traditions without having to travel any farther than the city of Chicago. From Kindergartners to graduate students the message is loud and clear: The Christkindlmarket is fun, fun, fun!
“Every time a cash register rings, a food court employee gets his Buffalo Wings.”