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The signs that Christmas is indeed not too far away now are already popping up all over the Waterloo Region, with Santa arriving to greet kids – and adults – in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and other places over the last week or so. Lights and decorations are starting to appear as well and it is certainly starting to look a lot like Christmas in our region. For some though the season does not really begin ‘officially’ until the now iconic Kitchener Christkindl Market gets underway, which this year will be on December 7th, running through December 10th.
What is the Kitchener Christkindl Market?
Those newer to the area, or those visiting, may not be too sure just what the Kitchener Christkindl Market is all about. A Christkindl Market in general is a German tradition that dates all the way back to the 1300s. The earliest events were held in local churches and were known as “Nikolausdult”, with St. Nikolaus at their center. They served mainly as a meeting place for local farmers to gossip and exchange wares and were rather different to the bright, sparkly Christmas celebrations staged today.
A more familiar version of a Christkindl Market was first held in Bavaria in the 1600s. Jolly St. Nik was replaced at the center of things by the Christkindl (Christchild) as the gift giver and the tradition of staging a festival featuring food, music, craft sales and general pageantry is central to German Christmas celebrations to this day.
The Kitchener Christkindl Market was first staged in 1996 as a way to breathe some life into the then slightly ailing Kitchener downtown area. In the 19 years that have followed it has become one of the best known of Canada’s Christmas markets and attracts, on average, 35,000 visitors from across North America, as well as thousands over locals, over the single four day period the festival runs. The festival is also consistently named to the Top 100 Festivals & Events in Ontario, presented by VIA Rail Canada.
What to Expect When Visiting the Kitchener Christkindl Market
We recently heard someone describe the Christmas Market as ‘Oktoberfest with Christmas cheer’. Locals know we are famed for our Oktoberfest celebration – Prime Minister Trudeau opened the festivities in 2o16 and this year it was Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s turn – and it’s quite true, the Kitchener Christkindl Market offers just as much fun and food, but adds in the chance to pick up many of the things you need to celebrate your own festivities at home.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of this years celebrations:
Food and Shopping
Over 90 vendors will be setting up shop at this year’s market. Some will be located within the Town Hall itself while others will be set up in huts that will line Civic Square. The festival is set up very much like the festivals in Europe after which it is modeled, with everything available from traditional German food to the kinds of handmade Christmas decorations and gifts that you simply cannot find in the regular stores. If you are looking for a unique gift for some special people, or are hoping to up your Christmas decor game this year, this is the place to go.
As the original Canadian Christmas market upholding the traditions of old make up a very important part of the Kitchener Christkindl Market. From the lighting of the beautiful Christmas Tree at the festival’s start to nightly candlelight parades and beautiful illuminations the sights, sounds and smells of the season are all around.
There is a wide variety of entertainment offered over the course of the four day festival and the list of performers grows in number and variety every year. In addition to traditional Bavarian brass bands and carol singers this year there will be folk dancers and philharmonic performances and even two performances by the rock band Courage My Love, the Kitchener born trio who have become international stars (this means that even hard to please teenagers should be happy this year!)
Kiddie’s Christmas Fun
There is, of course, lots for children to enjoy. From live blacksmith’s demonstrations (which are very interesting for grown ups to see too) to visits from Santa and the Christkindl, special craft workshops, puppet shows, a wonderful model railway and more.
Want to learn even more about this most cheerful of local celebrations? Check out the official video below.