Who doesn’t love a good Christmas market? Walking around, seeing the lights, checking out hand-crafted goods with a cup of cocoa or mulled wine in your hand — does it get any better?

Few communities take the annual tradition as seriously as the folks in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo, whose annual Christkindl market brings a touch of German holiday cheer to Southwestern Ontario.

A region deeply proud of its Teutonic heritage, Kitchener-Waterloo’s annual Christkindl German Christmas Market has delighted residents and visitors for over 20 years, combining mainstays of traditional Christmas markets with Germanic traditions like polka dances and pageants.

Christkindl Traditions

Originally starting as a simple Christmas exhibit in Kitchener’s city hall in 1997, Christkindl has evolved to a massive annual event that takes over a portion of the town’s main street, with over a hundred exhibitors and 40,000 attendees in 2018 alone. 

Happening from December 5 – 8, 2019, here are just some of the things that make Waterloo’s Christmas market a truly unforgettable event.

Christkindl Trains 2

Trains, Sleighs and Automobiles

While they share much in common, the Kitchener-Waterloo Christmas Market has one thing its cousins across Germany don’t: an ever-changing, floor-level display of colourful model trains that takes over city hall’s Conestoga Room each year with intricate, Christmas-themed tracks. Hosted by model train enthusiasts Jenny and Fred Aldred, the tradition goes back to 2000, when they first shared their exceptional collection with the community, along with Fred’s father, Fred Sr.

The value of our investment in our own personal collection of buildings, tracks, villages, supplies, and of course trains has certainly surpassed $75,000,” Fred Aldred says. But it’s the good times, great people and the awesome backdrop of the Christkindl Market in Kitchener City Hall that keeps us coming back year after year!
Chriskindl Fred Sr

While unique, homemade crafts are a staple of Christmas markets around the world, Christkindl market Kitchener-Waterloo takes things a step further with a full-on, functional blacksmith’s forge! Hosted by the Ontario Artist Blacksmith Association, the Christkindl smithy produces ornamental designs and functional goods right before your eyes in live demonstrations undertaken by actual blacksmiths. You can even place a custom order!

Chriskindl Food Vendor

Great Eats and Shows at Waterloo’s Christmas Market

Of course, no trip to a Christmas market is complete until you have a piping hot cup of mulled wine in your hand. The German Christmas market in Kitchener-Waterloo puts a distinct twist on the tradition with a special variety of mulled wine called Glühwein. Descended from the German tradition of using hot irons to warm up wine, Glühwein translates to glow wine,’ due to the flush it brings to your cheeks when you take a sip (or three). 

Other delicious treats you can sink your teeth into at Christkindl include schnitzel, waffles, and the market’s famous apple fritters. 40,000 of the sweet treats were sold in 2018 alone, one for almost every person who attended the event that year. 

Chriskindl Organ

Make sure to catch some of the event’s unique live performances, ranging from intricate puppet shows to traditional polka dances to choir concerts. And don’t forget to snap a selfie with Klaus Wehrenberg, a traditional German organ-grinder who has delighted revelers with his tunes and his trusty monkey puppet, Ovombo every year since 2000.

You can also find performers dressed as characters from German folklore found throughout the market, such as Christkind, Knecht Ruprecht and St. Niklaus’ companion, who carries a bagful of treats and wooden switches to punish naughty kids with! 

Christkindl Knecht

Christkindl Market: A Town’s Holiday Tradition

It’s truly inspiring to see how in 20 short years, the Christkindl market in Kitchener-Waterloo has evolved from a modest exhibition to a full-blown holiday tradition that unites thousands of the town’s residents, far beyond its German population.

Visiting the German Christmas market in Kitchener-Waterloo offers more than just mulled wine and Instagrammable artisan goods. It’s like being welcomed into someone else’s family Christmas party, experiencing traditions both familiar and new. 

Chriskindl Dancers

The pride and joy town residents take in their cross-continental holiday spectacle is truly infectious, showcasing not only unique cultural customs that have survived centuries, but new traditions – like the Aldred’s model trains – that could only have come from Canada. 

Explore more of Southwest Ontarios unique culture and gorgeous natural scenes with Travel Top 6.

Special thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn in Waterloo, ON for contributing to this piece.

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