4 US Christmas markets that you can visit safely this year

Dec 1, 2020

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Picturesque as all get-out, fragrant with gingerbread and spiced wine, and overspilling with handicrafts, toys, ornaments, food and more food, it’s obvious why the European tradition of Christmas markets has proliferated here in the U.S. But not every “candy cane lane” is a genuine European Christkindlmarket.

Many families look forward to their annual visit to a local or regional holiday market, and because these markets are usually outdoors, some have been able to add social distancing requirements, adjust or postpone musical performances and other events, and open for business as (mostly) usual this year. Others have gone virtual for the time being.

But if there’s an outdoor holiday market near you, it might be a safe way to kickstart the season. From Chicago to Pittsburgh, these U.S. Christmas markets closely replicate the real thing — and are finding inventive ways to bring holiday cheer to people this year.

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Christkindlmarket in Chicago

(Photo by True Shot Studios)
Christkindlmarket Chicago. (Photo by True Shot Studios)

Christkindlmarket Chicago, now in its 24th year, sets the standard to the degree that its sponsor, the German American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, has become the de facto consultant to other cities that aspire to Christkindlmarket greatness. The Chicago market draws 1 million people annually. But, this year it’s going virtual. That means anyone anywhere can visit vendors and make gift purchases.

Literally meaning “Christ Child Market,” the Christkindlmarket “unites cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm.” Its namesake, the Christkind, is a golden fairy in white robes — the German equivalent of Santa Claus. The Christkindlmarket Chicago, which began in 1996, is one of the nation’s oldest German holiday markets and continues to be the city’s largest open-air Christmas festival. It looks forward to getting back to business as usual in the future.

Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Pittsburgh

Now in its ninth year, the Peoples Gas Holiday Market will be held at Market Square from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. Browse through Alpine-style wooden chalets for high-quality holiday gifts. This year, don’t miss The Black Market in partnership with Shayla Hawkins Events. The pop-up is devoted to showcasing the wares from Black-owned businesses. Check it out from Dec. 4 to 6, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Also new this year is the Santa Zoom experience, where you and your children can chat with Santa in the North Pole via video chat. You’ll even get a code to download a photo of your visit afterward.

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Christmas Village Philadelphia
(Photo courtesy of Christmas Village in Philadelphia)

Until Christmas Eve at LOVE Park, Christmas Village in Philadelphia will be all decked in thousands of lights and the smell of delicious German delicacies, such as bratwurst, glühwein, lebkuchen (gingerbread) and more. Traditional timber booths will house more than 60 vendors selling classic holiday treats, as well as local and authentic European products. Check out gift items from Kathe Wohlfahrt, Andrey’s Gifts from Afar, Nordic Dreams, Sockadelphia and more. Special events and musical performances are on hold this year, but will return in the future.

Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington

Texas Christkindl Market was inspired by the decades-long relationship between Arlington and its sister city, Bad Königshofen. Working with its partner Christmas city, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Texas Christkindl Market aims to bring the European Christmas market experience to the state. The in-person market is on pause this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but you can still check out many of its vendors online.

Featured image of Christmas Village in Philadelphia courtesy of Russ Brown Photography. 

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