First Provo “weihnachtfmarkt” rings Christmas in

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BYU students, residents, the Grinch and a couple of reindeer braved a snowstorm Dec. 7. to see downtown Provo light up for a traditional German Christmas market.

"Santa Claus," "the Grinch," and Mayor John Curtis helped turn on the lights in downtown Provo during a Christmas market. Photo by Lucy Schouten.
“Santa Claus,” “the Grinch” and Mayor John Curtis helped turn on the lights in downtown Provo during a Christmas market. (Photo by Lucy Schouten)

The first Provo Christmas market was a winter version of a farmer’s market and featured live holiday music, plus vendors and a “lights-on” ceremony. The “weihnachtsmarkt” is a month-long Christmas tradition in Germany and Switzerland, but Provo’s version also featured more American favorites like Indian fry bread.

Still, BYU graduate James Schwab, who served a mission in Germany and Switzerland, said the event was smaller than similar markets in Germany but had “a very good start.” He said the Christmas markets he saw in Germany had more Christmas-themed objects to buy, such as nutcrackers, candy and stockings. He enjoyed exploring Provo’s market with friends.

Eric Layland, event coordinator for Provo Parks and Recreation, said the Christmas market replaced the lights-on parade of other years, which was cancelled indefinitely because of construction in downtown Provo. Mayor John Curtis still hosted the traditional lights-on ceremony, read sponsor names and introduced Santa Claus, who stayed to visit with the children. A Parks and Recreation staff member also wrote a short program involving the mayor, Santa Claus, the Grinch and a crowd rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

Layland said he was initially concerned by the day-long snowstorm, but they compensated by bringing in an extra generator for increased light and more tents. The vendors, many of whom were displaying their wares to the public for the first time, were still excited. Nearly 1,000 people came to the market, although they spent some time around several fires scattered throughout the market. He added that the market’s most popular feature — live reindeer — seemed especially unconcerned by the winter weather.

Llamas and reindeer attended the first Christmas market in Provo. Photo by Lucy Schouten.
Llamas and reindeer attended the first Christmas market in Provo. (Photo by Lucy Schouten)

“Ultimately it was a Christmas market, so snow just kind of added to it in some ways,” Layland said. “The reindeer, of course, were great in the weather.”

The Parks and Recreation office has yet to fully review the event, but Layland said they were pleased overall.

“We would love to make it a Provo tradition downtown,” he said.

BYU students Kami Slezak and Todd Nelson attended the event mostly for the music and the experience after receiving an ad from Provo City. They did not buy anything, but they enjoyed the llamas and the reindeer.

Some vendors saw the market as a jump-off point for other festive events around Christmas and New Year’s. BYU graduate Tyler Clyde brought several llamas to help advertise the seventh annual “Carollama,” an event where people bring llamas Christmas-caroling and collect canned food for the Community Action food bank.

“We’re trying to make this a community event,” Clyde said. He invited “anybody who likes llamas and caroling and service” to join the group at Kiwanis Park at 6 p.m. on Dec. 13.

Schwab said he most enjoyed the charm and surprises of the Christmas market and hoped the tradition continued to grow.

“It’s a little thing to explore, and you don’t really know who’s going to be there and what’s going to happen,” Schwab said.

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