German holiday market finds new home at Naper Settlement
Celebrating its 21st year in Chicago, the outdoor Christmas festival has moved its suburban version of the German tradition to downtown Naperville this season. The market continues weekends through Christmas Eve.
"We had an immense turnout for the first Christkindlmarket Naperville," said Maren Biester Prieber, general manager of German American events, which puts on the market. "The Naper Settlement is a wonderful and charming backdrop for this type of event."
For the past two years, the suburban Christkindlmarket was in Oak Brook.
"We reached a point where we couldn't grow anymore," said Kate Bleeker, manager of both the Chicago and suburban Christkindlmarket events. "We found Naper Settlement and we're really excited about the possibilities."
The grounds at the 12-acre Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., are playing host to the Christkindlmarket concurrently with other programs.
"We have a lot of our own programming going on at the same time," said Emma Vodick, the settlement's public relations coordinator.
For example, visitors can check out Naper Lights, an elaborate display installed by the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise, as they stroll from one Christkindlmarket merchant to the next.
Imitating the German festival, the 35 Christkindlmarket vendors are housed in small, authentic wooden huts.
"We get them made in Germany and have them shipped over," Bleeker said.
A few of the larger temporary shops are housed in tents.
Inside, shoppers will find handmade crafts made by artisans that will include fan favorites, as well as several vendors unique to the Naperville market, she said.
"It's all handmade, all artisan vendors. Pottery, handblown glass ornaments, wood carvings, candles and soaps made out of honey," she said. "There are a lot of hand-painted items. About 60 percent of our vendors are from German-speaking countries."
Local vendors and vendors from other locations around the world round out the merchant list.
Bleeker said Christmas holiday festivals are held throughout Germany. The market in Chicago, which has been in Daley Plaza annually since 1997, and the Naperville market are specifically inspired by the Christmas celebration observed in Nuremberg, she said.
"It's an outdoor, very traditional German holiday market. They've been around since the 1300s," she said.
German food, including bratwurst and potato pancakes, is for sale. Vendors serve sausage, leberkase, which Bleeker describes as a type of German meatloaf, and raclette, a melted cheese dish that originated in Switzerland.
And, of course, there's a selection of imported German beers, along with a hot, spiced red wine, known as gluhwein.
"It's sort of like a mulled wine. It's very popular. It's served all over Germany. It's sort of become a really beloved tradition here," Bleeker said.
New at Christkindlmarket Naperville is a baked apple flavor of gluhwein as "an alternative if you don't like the original taste," Biester Priebe said. Markets in Germany serve several flavors, so organizers figured they should expand the offerings in the suburbs, too.
While Christkindlmarket is in full swing, Vodick said Naper Settlement visitors also can enjoy the other holiday activities at the venue, including tours of the Martin Mitchell mansion, which will be decked out in Edwardian-style Christmas décor.
The settlement also will host Santa visits, history lessons taught by Mrs. Claus and the Weed Ladies' Holiday Floral Sale. For details, visit napersettlement.org.
Vodick said Christkindlmarket's arrival in Naperville is fitting, especially because many of Naperville's first settlers were of German descent.
"We do have a deep German heritage," Vodick said. "It really ties in perfectly."
• Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson contributed to this report
If you goWhat: Christkindlmarket
Where: Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 15; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, and Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 23; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24
Info: napersettlement.org or christkindlmarket.com/naperville