German ‘Christkindlmarkt’ Returning To Utah For Seventh Year
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The annual German Christmas Market opens this week at the This Is the Place Heritage Park. The event attracts huge crowds who also have service in mind.
A traditional children’s parade of lanterns will bring a centuries old tradition back to life. For Harriet Uchtdorf and her daughter, Antje Evans, Christkindlmarkt is the next best thing to Christmas in Germany.
“When I moved here 10 years ago and missing home at Christmas time, we were so thrilled that we were asked to join and be on the board,” Uchtdorf said. “It’s been a blessing to us and to see how it’s grown.”
They both fondly remembered the feelings they had growing up and looking forward to the annual markets. That’s what they hope for Utah families.
“You can come with your children, you can ride the train, and it doesn’t cost a thing,” Uchtdorf said. “It’s just for the community and special experiences for the Christmas time.”
Choirs of adults and children and dance groups will perform throughout the four-day festival. Others will create a live Nativity.
They’ll also reenact the story of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who divided his cloak and gave half to a beggar in a snowstorm. Afterward, he became a Christian.
On Nov. 11, German school children celebrate St. Martin’s Day. Allyson Chard, who lived with her family in Germany for a few years, brought the idea to Utah, adding service to the event in honor of St. Martin.
“All of our performers — we have 1,000 children coming on field trips — all of them engage in service either at the market or prior to coming to the market,” Chard said.
This will mark Christkindlmarkt’s seventh year here. Now students from 18 schools work on projects to benefit the community. As a result, it has become an interfaith event for people of all ages to share the beauty of the season.
“As a sign of the light of Christmas and the light that’s in our hearts because of these wonderful days that so many people of faith, or different faiths, celebrate during this time of the year,” said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, then-Bishop of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, in 2012.
“It’s an interfaith gathering and this is a wonderful place, This Is the Place Heritage Park,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It belongs to the whole community and it belongs to the whole city.”
That year, the crowd sang, “O, Christmas Tree,” and the large pine, placed in the center of the wooden stalls, shined with colored lights.
“What a great way to get the community together and come out and, I guess, kick start the holiday season,” said visitor Ryan Clegg.
A hundred vendors will fill booths along the park’s streets this year with food and handmade items or ornaments to buy.
With the size of the crowds increasing, the park had to deal with traffic congestion.
“It’s not one parking lot or two,” said James Burton, Utah’s Honorary Consul for Germany. “It’s four parking lots. We’re hopeful that people will come, follow the signs, and that will make it the smoothest for them getting in and getting out.”
During the day, visitors will experience the market and the holiday spirit of the park. At night, the lights will make it festive and give visitors just a glimpse of an international celebration.
Uchtdorf and Evans put on their German hats and together said, “Frohliche Weihnachten! That means, ‘Merry Christmas!’ and that’s a happy day! Yes, a happy day and a happy time!”
Christkindlmarkt is a unique cultural experience that 100,000 visitors have made a part of their Christmas traditions.
“Christkindlmarkt” opens Wednesday and goes through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at This Is the Place Heritage Park.
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