Tag Archives: Christkindlmarket

German Springerle Cookies for the Holidays

Springerle Molds germanyWhile at the Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago we spotted these unique rolling pins and cookie molds amidst the wooden ornaments and whistles at a German handicrafts stand. Far from just being decorative, these “Springerle” pins and molds are used for imprinting designs on traditional German cookies of the same name. Springerle cookies are easy to make, and are basically sugar cookies flavored with anise, as in this recipe. However, traditional recipes call for a more unusual ingredient – baker’s ammonia. What makes these cookies really distinct are their festive designs, which may be stars, hearts, flowers, animals, people, or anything you might imagine. Springerle pins and molds have been common across Germany for centuries, and some of the antique designs truly are artful. If you are not near a German market, you can buy a wide variety of springerle pins or molds online.

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Bretzels at the Chicago Christkindlmarket

germanyOne of the great holiday traditions in Chicago is visiting the German-inspired Christkindlmarket in Daley plaza in Chicago. At the Christkindlmarket, you can get your fill of German and America treats, buy some of the famous German glass ornaments (including the famous pickle ornament), and pick up a commemorative mug of spiced wine, Glühwein. As for other food and drink, you can also get döner, sausages, roast nuts, stollen, potato pancakes, strudel and more. However, for us, the treat of choice is the Bavarian pretzel aka bretzel. When we were in Germany this was our favorite snack, and there are several varieties available at the Christkindlmarket from the Pretzel Haus stand (from Bad Oeynhausen) for less than $5 apiece. We go for the classic bretzel, though there are cheese-filled and sugary varieties as well. It is the prefect market day food- warm, filling, and portable! Christmas Eve is the last day the Christkindlmarket is open – so don’t delay in getting your holiday bretzel.


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The Christmas Pickle Ornament

We were at Chicago’s venerable Christkindlmarket today, perusing the holiday ornaments while enjoying bretzels and roasted cashews, when we noticed a huge basket of glass ornaments shaped like pickles. “Odd,” we both said. But then we saw them at another booth, and again at another. What gives? We were intrigued. Finally, in one of the ornament shops, in the midst of yet-again vocalizing how confused we were by the pickle ornaments, a woman behind us jumped in: in her family, one person puts/hides the pickle ornament in the tree, and the person who finds the pickle ornament gets to open presents first, or gets an extra gift. And it was not just her family: apparently the Christmas pickle is a huge tradition! Though some people claim the pickle has German origins, it is probably actually an American or German-American tradition that took root in the late 19th century, just as glass ornaments were being popularized. Even though its origins are shrouded in mystery we like the idea that it is supposed to bring good luck!

Christmas Pickle Ornament

Christmas Pickle Ornament (and Danbo friend) by Meagan


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Germany and Austria: Adventskalender und Weihnachtsmärkte (Holiday markets)

Austria It’s December 1st! And that means a new year of Advent calendars. Advent calendars (Adventskalender) date back to Lutherans in 19th Century Germany, where they were (and are) used to count down the days until Christmas. In our case, December 1st means chocolate advent calendars. There are some enticing looking varieties out there. But I’m going to opt for something a bit more low-key. Cost Plus World Market sells some good varieties from Deutschland for less than 5 bucks.


December 1st is also the traditional start date for Weihnachtsmärkte, Austrian and German outdoor holiday markets. According to Wikipedia, Vienna’s market is the oldest and dates back to 1294. This past weekend we had the fortune to go to Chicago’s very own Weihnachtsmärkte, the Christkindlmarket. The long-running market takes place at Daley Plaza in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and contains a giant Christmas Tree and tons of booths chock full of German handicrafts and food (like the Bavarian steins above). The Market runs through the 24th so there is still plenty of time to get festive.

Christmas tree

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