The holiday season is only at the beginning, but those who are already thinking about going to Christkindlmarket will be happy to know there’s a way to skip the long lines this year.
The German-style Christmas bazaar, which is open in Daley Plaza, and Wrigleyville and Aurora every November, has announced a novelty for this year, a weekend fast-entry pass. For $25, you can bypass the large crowds on Saturdays and Sundays and stroll right into the marketplace at Daley Plaza with no waiting time. You will have to select a 30-minute time slot for entry when buying your tickets. The good news is admission also includes a souvenir mug which has a different design every year and is a coveted collectible, especially since you might not find it anymore if you visit later in the season.
History and traditions of the most beloved Christmas Market
The Christkindlmarket unites cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm.The Christkindlmarket is well-known for its vendors’ high quality gifts and food, holiday cheer, and for being the ideal place for families to make unique memories.
The Striezelmarkt of Dresden, the first true Christmas Market, made its first appearance in 1434. However, “December Markets” were common long before that, with the earliest recorded December Market taking place in Vienna in the year 1298. Traditional Christmas Markets have been held in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and parts of France since the Middle Ages. The central focus of traditional Christkindlmarket is the Nativity Scene.
Inspired by the classic Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, one of the first outdoor markets of its kind, the one in Chicago features a variety of gift vendors and food stalls selling everything from ornaments and steins to mulled wine and schnitzels.
The Christkindlmarket Chicago was first conceptualized in 1995 when The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest Inc. (GACC Midwest) was seeking alternative ways to promote bilateral trade between the USA and Germany. Peter Flatzek, former Vice President of GACC Midwest, and Ray Lotter, then Manager of Commercial Services for GACC Midwest, initiated the partnership with city officials of Nuremberg, Germany. Mr. Lotter invited companies from Germany and the Chicago area to participate in the first Christkindlmarket Chicago in 1996. The market was an instant success and continues to flourish through the work of GACC Midwest’s subsidiary, German American Events, LLC.
The inaugural event took place on Pioneer Court in 1996 for the first time. By special invitation of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a staple event on the plaza ever since. With the support of the City of Chicago and their Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the Christkindlmarket Chicago has grown to become one of the most popular winter attractions for locals and tourists alike. After canceling 2020 due to COVID-19, the popular Christmas Market was back the following year at Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville, and now is also a destination in Aurora.
When can you see the Christkind this year in Chicago
The Christkind, a fairy-like being dressed in gold and white robes with a crown upon her golden locks, is the namesake of the Christkindlmarket. Christkind folklore dates back to the 1500s and stems from traditional customs: parades during the holiday season were guided by one “grand” angel, the Christkind. Since then, and still today, she is the bearer of gifts to most children in German-speaking countries, much like Santa Claus is in the United States. Traditionally, gifts are exchanged December 24th and delivered by the Christkind, who leaves them under the Christmas tree and disappears before the children can catch a glimpse of her.
While the Christkind from Nuremberg, Germany, has visited the Chicago market in previous years during the first weekend of the market, 2013 marked the first year of the original Chicago Christkind. Since then, the Christkind has been part of the Grand Opening Ceremony at the Preview Party, reciting her prologue translated from the original German, to welcome visitors to the Christkindlmarket Chicago. Those young and young at heart have had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with the Christkind in previous years as she roamed the market, sharing German holiday traditions. The Christkind is also part of the popular Kinder Club programming. This year, she will make virtual appearances during the Christkind Story Time, every Sunday at 2pm from November 20th – December 24th.
Opening hours and where to get fast-entry passes
Christkindlmarket Chicago returned for the season on November 17, same as last year.
The Daley Plaza location will be open 11am-8pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am-9pm Friday and Saturday. The Gallagher Way outpost in Wrigleyville will run from November 17 to December 31, with operating hours of 3pm-9pm Monday through Thursday, 11am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 11am-7pm on Sunday.
Admission on weekdays, and non-express entry on weekends, remains free. Fast-entry passes are on sale now via Eventbrite.