February 14th, 2011
Please enjoy this guest post by Wisconsin Lutheran College student Eileen T.
Christmas is a special time of year for many cultures, but many American Christmas traditions actually have their roots in Germany. Christmas trees, glass ornaments, and even St. Nick all point back to German tradition. Christmas time is a great opportunity to connect German students with the culture they are learning about. Since they grew up with many German traditions, it is an easy transition to take German culture and apply it to their own lives.
During the weeks prior to Christmas, WLC’s German students practiced singing traditional German Christmas songs, enjoyed some German sweets and Frau Krause’s baking at a Christmas celebration, and were also able to take a day trip to Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarkt.
Christkindlmarkt is held daily from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve at Daley Plaza in Chicago. Vendors serve up many traditional dishes as well as sell a wide variety of Christmas-themed wares that make unique Christmas presents. WLC’s German classes have gone many of the last several years, and it’s always a great way to take a break from preparing for finals and have the opportunity to practice speaking German with peers of all levels.
This year we were also joined by Wisconsin Lutheran High School’s German students. Everyone drove to Waukegan in school vans and from there we took the Metra straight into Chicago. The station where we get off is not too many blocks from the market which makes it much easier, especially since winter is not the most pleasant time to be in the “Windy City.”
Since Christkindlmarkt is largely outdoors, stopping in at one of the warming tents after several hours of walking in the cold is nearly inevitable. Here you can witness many non-Germans experiencing the well-known sense of “Gemütlichkeit,” which is hard to translate into English, but is a general feeling of both coziness and sociability with those around you that is often found in Germany. People, who may not have ever met, share a table and are able to talk, laugh, and share a warm drink without the discomfort many Americans would normally feel in a similar situation. Other than time at Christkindlmarkt, the students walked together to visit Millennium Park and were able to discuss amazing art and architecture auf Deutsch.
When asked about how he felt about Christkindlmarkt, WLC freshman Jacob K. quickly responded, “Christkindlmarkt was better than Christmas and Tag der Deutschen Einheit put together!”