When I was a kid, I counted down the days until the Christmas season came around. I couldn’t wait until my dad and I put up and decorated our tree while my mom “supervised” from the living room, wrapped every available railing in garland, and set out the wide array of nutcrackers my parents had collected over the years. I couldn’t wait to have eggnog and apple cider and watch Christmas movies while the snow fell outside. The day I got to wear pajamas to school and watch the Polar Express while my teacher gave us all snacks and hot cocoa was the best day of my six-year-old life.
I’m twenty now, and I didn’t see the Polar Express on any of my class syllabi at the start of the semester (not that that’s stopping me from showing up to class in my pajamas). I’m not home to see winter take over New Hampshire and turn it into a scene out of a holiday calendar. I could only spend so much time putting up the tree and decorating my house during Thanksgiving break because I had homework to do and finals to stress about. Ah, the joys of growing up.
It’s unfortunate that Christmas loses its magic as you get older—I didn’t think it was true until I got to my freshman year of high school and realized that the holidays didn’t feel the same. Five years later, they still haven’t felt the same. However, I saw a glimmer of that magic when I went to the Christkindlmarkt at SteelStacks this past weekend, and I was taken back to being six years old again.
When I entered the main tent, I felt like I was transported to the North Pole. Green and red banners hung from the ceiling as the rows and rows of vendor stalls down below created a giant maze, bustling with people in a way that can only be described as elves running around Santa’s workshop. Each stall was decorated with lights and tree garland and some of the most unique ornaments I’ve ever seen. I thought that was where it ended, but I realized that the market spread through not one, but FOUR giant tents. You bet I was giddily moving through the aisles like a little kid on Christmas Day.
Christkindlmarkt welcomes artisan, retail, and food merchants, and there’s an incredible amount of diversity across the 150+ vendors stalls. If you’re at all worried about getting your Christmas shopping done before the big day rolls around, I can assure you that the market has something for everyone on your list. There’s finely crafted jewelry, artwork of all mediums, kitchenware, handmade apparel, bath and body products, unique home decorations, and the list goes on and on. Little House Candles makes hand-poured and crafted candles that can be custom scented (and they come in an amazing array of colors). For the nature lover in your life, Bucks County Flowers & Things has some of the best succulent arrangements I’ve ever seen. If my windowsill weren’t already full, I probably would’ve bought out their supply. However, I did end up spending a good deal of time at Tunes Company. They take vintage record covers and turn them into wall clocks, desk clocks, and coasters. Look through the bins and find everything from Michael Jackson to Coldplay to AC/DC and more (don’t tell my parents, but this is where I got their Christmas gifts).
Also, be sure you come ready to eat—many of the food merchants are very generous with free samples. Keystone Farms Cheese allows anyone to walk up and enjoy a cheese tasting completely free of charge. Be sure to try their Cinnamon Apple Cheddar, Tomato-Basil Feta, and Spinach and Artichoke Jack—it’s a cheese lover’s paradise. Casa De Jorge Salsa is also incredibly generous and offers one of their 19 salsas (my favorite was the peach with cinnamon) to anyone to try. Be sure you have water on hand, though, because their salsas can be stupid hot. If you’re on a foodie mission like I was, also check out Stroopies, Inc.—they make caramel-filled dutch cinnamon cookies that make you question the extent of your self control.
The Christkindlmarkt experience also isn’t limited to just shopping. The main stage hosts at least four performers every single day the market is open, and you can check the schedule here to see if anyone speaks to your Christmas spirit. There are also daily ice sculpting demonstrations right outside the main tent; there’s something really amazing about watching a swan delicately emerge from a block of ice being shaved down with a chainsaw. If you can’t find that perfect gift for a special someone, there’s nothing better than going homemade—you can purchase tickets for the Hot Glass Experience and be guided by one of the market’s artists as you create your own glass ornament or candy cane. Finally, it wouldn’t be a Christmas city without St. Nick himself, so visit him in Tent 2 and make all your holiday wishes come true.
Walking around each tent, I was hit with the warmth, smells, and excitement of the holidays. For two hours, I forgot about the papers I had to write and the exam I had to study for and just about every other source of stress in my life. For two hours, I got to be six years old again—I forgot how good it feels to believe in magic.