German Christmas market will help Utahns focus on the true meaning of Christmas

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Bratwurst, gluhwein, gingerbread and nutcrackers are only some of the smorgasbord of treats and decorations that fill Christmas markets in Germany.

This German tradition can be experienced by Utahns in Salt Lake City this weekend on Dec. 5–7.
Allyson Chard, founder of Christkindlmarkt SLC, is a Utah native who lived in Germany for two years, where she fell in love with the Christmas markets.
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Children march in the St. Martin’s Day parade to celebrate service. (Photo courtesy christkindlmarkt-slc.com)

“I want those who attend the market to have a fun and festive experience and enjoy a wonderful tradition from a different culture,” Chard said.

The market is filled with German food, festive holiday entertainment, live reindeer and a German Father Christmas. There are 35 vendors who will fill the square with decorative German booths selling European-themed merchandise and food. However, Chard feels the most important aspect of the market is in the charity tie to helping other children in need.

“I wanted to make a market where children learn the importance of giving to others,” Chard said.

This year eight schools in the Salt Lake area participated in the charity component of the market in a number of service projects including coat and shoe drives. Children will celebrate the service rendered in a nightly lantern parade during the market.

Chard said the parade is based on an age-old German legend of St. Martin, who was stopped by a beggar who asked for money. St. Martin had no money to give so instead removed his coat, tore it in half and gave one half to the beggar.  Overwhelmed by all the people looking for him, St. Martin hid in a cave. The people lit lanterns and searched for him all night to commend him for his good deed.

Germans remember this legend by marching in annual St. Martin’s Day parades across the country during the Christmas season.

School children in Salt Lake will march along the parade route at This Is The Place Heritage Park with lit lanterns to celebrate the service they rendered and funds they raised to provide coats to other children in need in the Salt Lake community as part of their own St. Martin’s Day parade.

Christkindlmarkt SLC volunteers visited schools in the Salt Lake area at the beginning of the school year and shared the story of St. Martin. They then asked students what their school could do to help others who are in need.

Kathy Peterson, a volunteer at the market, said one of the distinguishing features of Christkindlmarkt SLC is the emphasis on providing children with the opportunity to drive the service their school will provide.

“We do a lot of service experiences where our kids do not have an intellectual or emotional connection, we do the work for them,” Peterson said. “What’s distinctive about this is that they really initiate it, and we celebrate their initiative and their contributions during the parade. That’s why this has really caught fire this year.”

Last year marked the first annual Christkindlmarkt SLC market. Bishop Westor of the Catholic Church told the story of St. Martin and welcomed guests to the market.

This year, the opening ceremony will take place at 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 5 and will be conducted by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kristine O’Brien, a volunteer at the market, said the market is a place where people of all different backgrounds, cultures and religions come together.

“Oftentimes Salt Lake City is labeled as the Mormon capital,” she said. “We are trying to incorporate all different backgrounds and cultures. We all want to celebrate together.”

The market will be December 5–7 at This is the Place Heritage Park. The market is open each day from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. with lantern parades every night at 6:00 p.m. More information about the market can be found at http://christkindlmarkt-slc.com/.