Tradition revived: the new Christkindlmarkt gives a local touch to German tradition

In German culture, the annual Christkindlmarkt is a focal point for joy, celebration, and all that makes a local community special.

Towns and villages come together for music, food and merriment, supporting their neighbors and the local business community.

Such an idea seemed like a wonderful thing to bring to central Indiana.

“In Germany, and the angle we take with our Christkindlmarkt is that it’s very local,” said Craig Mince, president of the Athenaeum Foundation. “These Christkindlmarkt were in town squares and you had local and regional vendors selling their wares. We do the same with ours.

Residents of Johnson County and the South can experience the magic of Christkindlmarkt close to home during the holiday season. The Athenaeum Foundation will hold its inaugural event starting Nov. 25, with local artisans and merchants set up in shacks selling holiday-specific items, local souvenirs, gifts and more.

The event, which will take place at the historic Rathskeller biergarten in downtown Indianapolis, will provide visitors with a unique experience among the many offerings planned for the city this holiday season.

“To be able to offer this to people in the city centre, and even people from the south, it gives them a destination to visit not only to go to the Christkindlmarkt, but when you come to the city center during the holidays, there are so many things,” Thin said. “It’s really vibrant in downtown Indianapolis to be able to do all of these vacation-themed things in one trip.”

The Athenaeum Foundation is a non-profit organization responsible for the maintenance and preservation of Athenaeum. Originally called Das Deutsche Haus, the building is a National Historic Landmark recognized in 2016 by the U.S. Department of the Interior for its role in the educational, architectural, and German-American history of the city, state, and nation .

Even today, the structure serves as a community center for many cultural, business, and non-profit groups, including the Coat Check Coffee, the YMCA, the Indiana Performing Arts Center, and the famed Rathskeller Restaurant.

“In addition to maintaining the building and keeping the National Historic Landmark that is the Athenaeum in working order, we are really focused on educating Indianapolis and the community at large about the importance of immigrants. Germans when they arrived in the city,” Mince said.

With its mission to preserve German-American culture, the idea of ​​a Christkindlmarkt was one the foundation had considered for years, Mince said.

“I wanted to do this since I started at the foundation and then COVID set in and everyone took a break and re-evaluated everything. I dug and focused on starting this Christkindlmarkt,” Mince said. “It took several years in the making.”

This won’t be the first Christkindlmarkt in central Indiana. Carmel Christkindlmarkt was founded in 2017 and offers visitors the opportunity to browse a variety of products from Germany and other German-speaking European countries.

Traditional German food, drink and gifts are sold in small wooden shacks, all set around an ice rink in the center of the market.

Organizers from the Athenaeum Foundation previously had a hut at Carmel Christkindlmarkt and wanted to put their own spin on the cultural event — one with an Indiana focus.

The organizers invited 12 companies from the territory to settle in wooden cabins designed by Solid State, a local design agency.

“The 12 vendors who will be in our huts are all local vendors. Everything is pretty much locally sourced – although obviously there’s little that isn’t,” Mince said. “Then we commissioned vendors from across the city to recreate authentic German items from the Christkindlmarkt.”

Visitors can buy wrapping paper, candles, cards and ornaments at Silver in the City, or mugs, tankards and Christkindlmarkt pottery at Gravesco Pottery.

“Our hut will have an array of locally crafted ornaments, cards and gifts that represent the sights, sounds and flavors of the Indy holiday,” said Kristin Kohn, owner of Silver in the City.

Wax Traditions will sell hand-painted German-style ornaments, King Lou Pets has everything for your dogs, cats, and other pets, while HeidiJHale Designs + Details offers handmade jewelry.

“I lived in Germany for part of my childhood and fondly remember the German holiday markets and traditions surrounding Christmas,” said Heidi Hale, owner of HeidiJHale Designs + Details. “Being able to be part of a Christkindlmarkt, which celebrates local Hoosier artists while showcasing German heritage, is very special to me.”

The Athenaeum Foundation has planned a shack to sell exclusive Christkindlmarkt items, while J&K Sweet Shop plans to offer German roasted nuts. React Tree & Greenery Hut, which will be located at the Christkindlmarkt entrance near Cleveland and Michigan streets, will sell freshly cut Christmas trees and greenery.

Other sellers have arranged to open varying weekends. Henry Art, selling charcuterie boards, candles and keychains, will be featured on the first weekend. SoulCraft’s oils, lotions and herbal teas will shoot the second weekend, while Penn & Beech Candle Co. will take the third weekend.

Restaurant Rathskeller has planned a menu of traditional Christkindlmarkt food items, pretzels and spicy mustard. No German winter party would be complete without beer, wine and gluhwein – spiced wine served hot or warm.

Coat Check Coffee will be available with coffee, hot chocolate and sweets, and Ash & Elm Cider Co. is offering hot cider and locally made goods to go.

The Athenaeum Christkindlmarkt will be open from Thursday to Sunday and will end on December 18. Live entertainment will continue on the Biergarten stage, additional dining options are planned by the Rathskeller and the Sun King Brewery has created an exclusive beer brewed just for the Christkindlmarkt.

In addition to regular opening hours, the market has a pair of unique events scheduled during its run.

Krampusnacht – or “Krampus Night” – is scheduled for December 3, when the mythical beast Krampus arrives to punish the naughty children. On the other hand, December 4 will be the Sankt Nikolaus Fest to reward the good guys.

All of this together will hopefully highlight the importance of German culture to the local community, Mince said.

“All of the events we host are meant to draw the dotted line between many traditions that families have in central Indiana and their German ancestry,” he said.

James R. Rhodes