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In the “Market” for Christmas Cheer

by Elyse Glickman

Nov 30, 2017

© Switzerland Tourism


While Christmas markets stock plenty of wonderful souvenirs to be purchased and enjoyed in future seasons, the markets are also places to attain and take home more meaningful memories. Germany and Switzerland are home to some of the best-known Christmas markets internationally. The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, stands as the benchmark for yuletide fairs internationally, inspiring similar fairs in Chicago and Philadelphia. Other festivals in North America, meanwhile, artfully blend time-honored old world customs with distinctive new world regional spins.



Between the last weekend in November and New Year’s Day, the city of Berlin effectively becomes the largest Christmas party in the world. Cultural centers, palaces and historic neighborhoods will set up shop with festivities running the gamut from traditional (i.e. Schloss (Palace) Charlottenburg; medieval Christmas market at Karlshorst; fairy-tale Christmas market at Jagdschloss Grunewald Castle; Spandau Christmas Dream) to the environmentally focused (The Berlin Environmental & Christmas Market; Domäne Dahlem) to the downright quirky (Weihnachtsrodeo; Christmas Market for Dogs).


Although the market at The Botanic Garden (Nov. 17–Jan. 7) in Berlin is one of the newest in Germany and Europe (launched in 2016), it blends time-honored traditions and light displays that would even impress the likes of Walt Disney and George Lucas. A canopy of glittering 100-year-old weeping Beech trees holds 30 light installation attractions, as well as an ice rink where you can take in the ambiance on your own skates or those available for rent.


Montreux Noel (Nov. 23–Dec. 23): With festivities stretching from the shores of Lake Geneva to the neighboring mountain tops, Montreux Noël offers many activities centered on its traditional Christmas market as well as an interesting infusion of French-Swiss customs, foods and traditions to the party.

Switzerland. get natural. From the end of November until the 24th of December, the Christmas Market in Montreux (canton of Vaud) each year features 150 decorated and illuminated chalets along the quays of Lake Geneva. In the best tradition of Christmas, crafts, tastings of regional specialities, mulled wine and thousands of gift ideas are there for you every year at this superb market.

Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Christkindlimarkt/Zürich Christmas Market (Nov. 23–Dec.24): Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof rail station captures the festive spirit of an urban European holiday experience. More than 100 indoor market stalls offer colorful handcrafted trinkets, rich St. Nicholas pastries, gourmet chocolates, butter cookies and hot mulled wine.


Huttwil Christmas Market: Since its inception in 1996, the Huttwil’s Christmas market in Emmental (Bernese Oberland) has gained national significance in Switzerland for bringing new visitors to this village-y corner of Switzerland. 80 idyllic wooden chalet-type stalls are offset with a full program of live entertainment and seasonal art installations.


North America


Toronto Christmas Market (Nov. 16–Dec. 23): Toronto’s Distillery Historic District becomes a winter wonderland where there’s never a dull moment during the festival’s run. Activities and attractions include parades, photo ops with Santa for kids and pets, lighting installations, cooking demonstrations at The Cabin By Campbell’s, strolling carolers and a diverse roster of concerts spanning across musical genres (jazz, folk, classical, world music, rock) that reflect the city’s diversity and rich cultural offerings.


Toronto Christmas Market at Distillery District

Photo: Nuvista | Dreamstime

United States

Winter Event Productions, California and Oregon (Nov. 24–Dec. 31): This division of Moonstone Hotel Properties lights up the western United States. With four lively outdoor Christmas markets in Silverton and Cottage Grove, Ore., and Cambria and Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (launching this year). These markets, which include organized family-focused and over-21 activities, have a treasure trove of artisan vendors selling handmade goods from wooden huts, thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, roaring fire pits, roaming carolers and more. These joyous events are modeled after an authentic German Christmas market.


The North Pole Experience, Flagstaff, Ariz. (Nov. 17–Dec. 28): Yuletide traditions get a distinctively American West twist at this unique Christmas adventure in Arizona. Families will enjoy this “Christmas adventure of a lifetime” with a trolley ride to the North Pole through a magic portal. Inside his grand workshop and toy factory headquarters, kids work side-by-side with Santa and his elves building toys. Families can also tour Santa’s Toy Hall of Fame, attend Elf University, eat cookies inside Santa’s Bakery and enjoy special one-on-one family time with Santa. The Little America Hotel, long a Flagstaff holiday season institution, teams up with the festival to offer a package that includes a lavish dinner buffet, a one-night stay and Breakfast with Santa.


The Old World Christmas Market at The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Dec. 1–10): The event, now in its 20th year, is staged in a lofty heated tent bedecked with fragrant boughs of fresh evergreens and the tantalizing scents of roasting almonds and bratwurst. Czech blown-glass ornaments, Russian nesting dolls, German hand-carved smokers and nutcrackers, fine apparel, handmade amber and silver jewelry, Turkish pashmina scarves, stained glass art, Russian hand-painted Santas and fresh green wreaths are just some of the gifts and décor items waiting to be snapped up.


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