Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Across the Cornfields – Holiday Edition

by Reneé Gordon Holley

As we all prepare for our respective holiday traditions, it is difficult to escape the festive decorations and flickering shop windows. Even in little Champaign-Urbana, our city streets are adorned with wreaths, lights, and trees. For me, however, a new crucial holiday tradition involves traveling to Chicago each December to take in more of the big city treats.
In addition to the fine shopping and dining spaces in Chicago, anyone taking a Christmas trip to the Windy City should pay a special visit to the annual Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop. Since 1996, the market has been attracting thousands of visitors each year. Chicago’s market is an initiative of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, and its original visionaries conceptualized the Midwest version of the German tradition based on the Christmas market in Nuremberg, circa 1545. For a quick introduction to the German Christmas traditions, including the Christkind, the Nuremberg market, and others, watch this video, hosted by European Travel Guru Rick Steves:

The Chicago Christkindlmarket includes vendors from Germany, in addition to some from the United States, Ireland, Poland, the Ukraine, and Austria. This is a one stop shop for hand-carved Christmas tree ornaments, traditional crafts from Germany, like votive houses, painted glass, and coo-coo clocks, or recordings of German Christmas music.

Alternatively, the market provides an ideal mid-day and early evening stop for a quick meal and festive drink. In addition to several German bratwurst options, the Christkindlmarket boasts German holiday favorites like spiced nuts, baked apples, pancakes, potato salad, chocolate-covered everything, strudels, traditional German Stollen cake, sauerkraut, hot soups, and potato pancakes.

To warm up, visitors enjoy hot chocolate, spiced cider, and, my personal favorite, Glühwein, German hot spiced wine. This brew features flavors of oranges, cinnamon, and cloves, infiltrating the steaming cup of red wine. Consumers of these hot beverages invest in a bit of Chicago market lore; each year the market features newly-designed mugs, shaped like boots and decorated with scenes from the market, Daley Plaza, and Chicago.

To aid in your own holiday selections, below is a list of other German-inspired Christmas markets in the United States. If you are unable to visit one of these fine establishments this year, try out some Glühwein in your own kitchen with the recipe listed below!
Glühwein – Adapted from allrecipes.com 
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle (cheap) red wine
  1. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.
  2. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water over a juice strainer. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
  3. Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. Serve hot in mugs or glasses that have been preheated in warm water (cold glasses may break.)
Makes six 4 oz. servings. I usually buy boxed wine and double or triple the recipe.

Happy Holidays to all our EUC Blog readers!

Reneé Holley is a PhD Candidate in Musicology and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She is working on a dissertation that addresses the influence of EU cultural policies on contemporary German musical life.


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