Denver Christkindl Market has been a downtown holiday favorite for the better part of two decades. The largest annual fundraiser for the German American Chamber of Commerce's Colorado Chapter, the market transforms Denver's Skyline Park into an authentic, Old World Christmas village for 37 days. The Denver Christkindl Market, patterned after the markets in huts or tents found in southern Germany and Austria, will be open at Skyline Park on the 16th Street Mall from Friday until Dec. 23.
"We set up about 40 huts, and in each of those we have craft, food vendors - a good mix of local Coloradan, German and international things you can purchase. You can also enjoy the time and celebrate while you're here," said Natalia Wobst, executive director for GACC's Colorado Chapter.
More than 150,000 visitors are expected over the season, she said.
"It's one of the favorite destinations for the Parade of Lights watchers on December 1st and the 2nd, since we're right on the 16th Street Mall," said Wobst, who recommends visitors take advantage of the free shuttle that connects to Union Station or, if driving, to come early to find a spot in a parking garage.
Vendors sell everything from German ornaments and roasted nuts to authentic brats, infinity lights and star lanterns. "Also, many of the huts sell winter clothing, tinctures and lotions to keep you healthy through the holiday season," Wobst said.
A large festival hall set up in a heated tent is used for weekend concerts and daily happy hours.
"The beer and wine are imported from Germany, and Glühwein is spiced mulled wine. We used to actually stir up our own mix and cook it on-site over an open flame, but as our event has grown, we found a Glühwein importer from Bavaria. We have a number of different flavors, including classic red wine with spice to apple, blueberry and non-alcoholic kinderpunch." Wobst said. "There is a beer option for basically each beer palate: We have everything from a Dunkel to a Märzen, and a Hefeweizen to a lager. They are all imported from Paulaner."
Every year, the market releases souvenir beer steins and Glühwein mugs that have become collector's items. This year's Glühwein mug is green with a pattern of the market and a cream center.
"It's a cool design and has hidden on it the market's three 'celebrities,' St. Nicholas, the Christkind herself and Krampus, the evil character of the season. We will do a beer stein release with the same design and bring back a special edition black stein that was popular last year," Wobst said.
The Christkind is the traditional Christmas gift-bringer in much of Europe as well as parts of Brazil and Louisiana. Martin Luther launched the tradition during the Protestant Reformation in 16th- and 17th-century Europe.
Wobst's favorite part of the market? "It's the days when you forget you're executive director of the event, when the spirit of the event just gets to you and people are all swaying back and forth in the hall, singing along to the music. Those are the nights when you're like, 'This is why we do this.'"
MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, 476-1602, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM