My sister is one of “those people” who gets up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday to get their Christmas shopping done. I’m sure they get some great deals, but a) I can’t stand crowds; b) I hate shopping; and c) I haven’t even thought about Christmas at this point. So you won’t find me at any store on that day or any other over Thanksgiving weekend.
However, yesterday we went downtown with some friends to Daley Plaza for the annual Christkindlmarket. This is the 12th year that Chicago has had this Holiday Market, which is based on the famous one in Nürnberg, Germany, seen here from my visit there the year I studied in Vienna (people are looking up to watch the Glockenspiel, not to pose for my picture).
Not nearly as big as Nürnberg’s, Chicago’s surrounding scenery is a little different too. While theirs is surrounded by centuries-old buildings (mostly reconstructed after WWII), we have City Hall in the background, completed in 1911. Chicago had to do their own reconstruction after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which is why you mainly see buildings made only of brick and stone, or later, like the Daley Center building, steel.
Daley Plaza (named for the first Mayor Daley, Richard J.) is in the heart of Chicago’s Loop between Clark and Dearborn on Washington Street. Throughout the year you’ll find various events going on at Daley Plaza, such as the Farmer’s Market during the summer or the Pumpkin Plaza with a Haunted Village for Halloween. The Daley Center building was constructed in 1965 and is based on the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a very influential Bauhaus architect who immigrated to Chicago from Germany in the late ’30s.
Daley Plaza is also famous for its Picasso sculpture, given to the city by Pablo himself in 1967.
The Christkindlmarket offers typical German food: potato pancakes, bratwurst, etc. along with typical American burgers and such. Oh, and do you like hot, spiced wine? Well, if you do, as you stroll around in the cold and sometimes frigid Chicago winter you can keep warm with a commemorative “boot” of Glühwein. Mmmm, das schmeckt gut!
There are many vendors here directly from Germany and also some from Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere selling glass-blown ornaments, crystal, lace tablerunners, chocolates, lebküchen and also some non-Christmas items like jewelry.
One of the largest vendors from Germany is Käthe Wohlfahrt, a huge, elaborate year-round Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, seen here in this photo from that same year in college. If you’re into Christmas stuff (which I am really not), this a store you won’t want to miss. Even so, the town of Rothenburg is quite charming and definitely worth a visit.
The Christkindlmarket is just the tip of the iceberg for Christmas shopping in Chicago, but to me it’s more enjoyable, and it puts me in the holiday spirit much more than fighting the crowds on the Magnificent Mile or at one of the many malls around. So if you don’t see me there, I’ll likely be shopping from the comfort of my sofa.