Christkindl Markt Celebrates
German Yuletide Traditions
By James Schmidt and photos by Wertman Photography
As the holiday season approaches, hundreds of communities throughout the world celebrate Advent with traditional outdoor festivals known as Christkindl Markts.
Originating in Bavaria, Germany, in 1310, Christkindl Markts celebrate the coming of the Christ child. The markets have brought the spirit of the season to many generations. Christkindl Markts provide friends and neighbors joyful gathering places filled with sights, sounds, and fragrances of time-honored German yuletide traditions, including tantalizing foods, heartwarming beverages, and quality handcrafted artisan items, all amidst a backdrop resonating cheery music and song.
Through the years, these popular festivals, which run anywhere from two weeks through December, have spread across Europe and beyond, to England and across the Atlantic into the U.S., and arriving in Hagerstown in 2017. The Hub City’s first Christkindl Markt was part of Main Street Hagerstown’s downtown events.
That inaugural event was successful and plans moved forward for its return this holiday season, shares Amanda Whitmore, downtown coordinator with the City of Hagerstown’s Main Street Hagerstown Program. “We had over 400 people attending last year and 26 participating vendors,” she shares.
This year’s Hagerstown Christkindl Markt is Saturday, Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at University Plaza. “It promises to be bigger than last year’s event,” states Amanda. “We have almost 30 artisans, added jewelry and antique vendors, and have authentic German cuisine available for purchase from food vendors Schmankerl Stube, Schatzie’s German Deli, and Pretzel & Pizza Creations.”
Celebrating German Heritage
The idea for Christkindl Markt originated with Monika Wertman, founding member of the Main Street volunteer committee planning the event, and owner of Wertman Photography, who was born in Germany and lived there as a young adult. “Having a Christkindl Markt in Hagerstown honors the area’s rich German culture,” Monika explains. “It’s a great way for people to celebrate the holiday season, enjoy traditional German foods and drinks, and find some unique, quality gifts that just can’t be found anywhere else.”
Dieter Blosel, executive chef and owner of Schmankerl Stube, joined the event committee last June. Dieter remembers the magic and romance of the Christkindl Markt as a youngster in Bavaria while visiting each year with his family. “It was especially nice to be there when it snowed. The smells of the foods and seeing all the wonderful sights were part of my family’s holiday tradition,” he recalls.
Dieter oversees Hagerstown’s Augustoberfest and is happy the city embraced another event focusing on German traditions. “It made sense to become involved, as there’s a natural connection with my background and experience.”
Schatzie’s German Deli co-owner Sonja Hunter, who also grew up in Germany, is on the event committee. Sonja remembers the food and camaraderie of the annual Christkindl Markt festivals she attended while living in Zimmern, Germany. “We would go every day. The Christkindl Markt was a way of life. It offered a great time to gather together with friends and family. To go and enjoy a bratwurst with curry was a great thing to do and something I miss. It gives me great pleasure to help plan Christkindl Markt again,” shares Sonja.
Amanda loved the Christkindl Markt concept. “We’re very fortunate to have an enthusiastic planning committee of volunteers who also have a strong German heritage connection,” Amanda shares. “Their participation instills an authentic German holiday tradition experience.”
Area Artisans & Unique Crafts
Many vendors participating in last year’s Christkindl Markt, including Sarah Smith of Waynesboro, Pa., and Laura Nalven of Hagerstown, are excited to return.
Sarah makes crocheted items through her FrankenStitching home business and shares she was very pleased with last year’s turnout. “My infinity scarves sold out in 15 minutes. I received 24 Christmas orders for them from the event and made 60 scarves since. I plan to bring more this year.”
Sarah began crocheting at age seven. She picked it up again while working for ARC. “Many of our residents didn’t have hats or scarves, so I began making things for them,” she explains. Sarah made gifts for nieces, nephews, friends, and family. She amassed a collection, including dream catchers, halter tops, bikinis, “character hats” for kids, faux fur pom-pom hats, and newborn photo-graphy props. New items this year include Christmas items, seashell art, crowns, and picture frames.
Laura Nalven, owner of Atta Pup! Dog and Puppy Training, uses her printmaking and art history background for creating unique linoleum, woodblock, and screen-printed cards. The former Etsy shop owner of “Aw, Applesauce!,” Laura creates many designs, including Christmas cards depicting whimsical hedgehogs and foxes, to cards melding 1920s flappers and art deco influences with Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print traditions. “I love taking concepts from seemingly disparate sources and connecting them,” she shares. Laura started making Christmas cards for friends and family. “I ended up with 200 extra cards,” she laughs. She then began participating in D.C.-area craft shows.
She greatly enjoys her craft. “I love printmaking and the technical, nerdy stuff associated with it – from planning the design using math and engineering to getting dirty during the process, all while taking little things and turning them into something else,” Laura explains. She plans to offer a few new Christmas card designs and add medium-sized art prints.
Stephanie Fish of Baltimore lived in Germany for two years and is excited to participate in her first Christkindl Markt. “I loved the holiday atmosphere of the German markets. Everyone was always in good spirits and I loved seeing many quality-crafted items,” she relates.
Stephanie, who operates Burlap Door Boutique, attended private art school and was always into crafts. “My mom was very do-it-yourself. She hosted parties and did the decorating and prepared all the food. She helped me develop a love of hands-on crafting.” Stephanie’s specialty is wreath-making. And while she uses all types of materials and techniques, her favorite is burlap. “I love the neutral, classic look,” she explains. Stephanie enjoys the challenges of creating. “I usually find one piece I really like and build a wreath around it. I love going with the flow to see what develops.” Stephanie makes wreaths for all seasons plus takes custom wreath orders.
Tastes of Germany
In addition to skilled artisans, Christkindl Markt features traditional authentic German foods and beverages.
Co-owners Sonja Hunter and Evelyn Sosa of Schatzie’s German Deli are offering bratwurst with homemade bruchen rolls, authentic Bavarian soft pretzels, German chocolates, and assorted German pastries, cakes, tortes, and lebkuchen. Schatzie’s German Deli plans to offer their popular German potato salad, made by Sonja’s mother, Helga Hunter, at this year’s event.
Last year, the Schmankerl Stube made gluhwein, the traditional beverage of Christkindl Markts in Germany and Europe, which Dieter describes as a warm, sweet spiced wine. The Schmankerl Stube’s authentic Bavarian food menu includes bratwurst, hot dogs, egg noodles with Swiss cheese, and hearty, beef-based goulash soup.
Pretzel & Pizza Creations, located in downtown Hagerstown and Frederick, will offer Bavarian-style pretzel-wrapped bratwurst, hot dogs, soft Bavarian pretzels, and pizza, which became popular German Christkindl Markt fare in Europe in the 1940s. “Our goal is for people to enjoy the event by adding a traditional German food experience,” relates Catie Serio, Pretzel & Pizza Creations co-owner. Pretzel & Pizza Creations plans to discount specific menu items and a special assortment of German beers for those dining in their Hagerstown location Dec. 1 to tie in with the event.
Building a Holiday Tradition
Amanda shares Main Street Hagerstown wants to expand Christkindl Markt. “We hope to continue generating interest from the community and artisans to participate.” Monika adds, “We want to create a lasting, family-friendly tradition planned for multiple weekends or grow into a two-week event like traditional markets.”
Making Christkindl Markt an annual tradition like the already-established Augustoberfest is a goal of the city, shares Dieter. “We have had a very good start. Now we need to keep it steadily growing each year to achieve our vision.”
“It’s fun for family and there are plenty of things to do with the kids,” adds Sonja. “It’s a little taste of Germany right here in Hagerstown.”
The market will also give people an opportunity to explore downtown Hagerstown, adds Amanda. “We have a lot going on downtown; we look forward to the community coming to Christkindl Markt and then staying to see all the great things downtown Hagerstown has to offer.”