Vancouver Christmas Market: German traditions revived
by Keri Vermeulen
The traditional outdoor German Christmas market is alive and well, producing delicious tastes, twinkling sights and nostalgic sounds in downtown Vancouver. The 8th Annual Vancouver Christmas Market, at Jack Poole Plaza, is the city’s biggest one yet, with 75 quaint wooden vendor huts and a warming tent called Alpine Haus, festive family activities, and mouth-wateringly delicious food with both a European and local flavour.
The Vancouver Christmas Market’s founder, Malte Kluetz came to the West Coast from Germany in 1990, and got to know Vancouver in a behind-the-scenes way when he got involved planning the 2010 Winter Olympics. He realized then that the time and place was perfect to recreate the nostalgia of the traditional German Christmas market.
The first Vancouver Christmas Market opened for Christmas 2010, in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, and operated there for six Christmas seasons. Due to its popularity, the Market moved to the Jack Poole Plaza last year, where it operates on more than 55,000 square feet, boasts a floating stage, a brightly lit carousel and a walk-in Christmas tree. “Really the core of the Christmas market is the idea of coming together during the festive season,” says Kluetz.
When he was a boy in the northern German town of Hamelin (of Pied Piper fame), Kluetz and his family would get bundled up in hats and scarves and head to the city to attend the annual Christmas market. “It was always exciting. I could go on a carousel ride and sample some food we typically had no access to. And it was always festive and very central,” shares Kluetz. “Later on, in my adult years when we all returned to our hometowns to celebrate Christmas, it was a tradition to go there and enjoy the drinks and food, and do your Christmas shopping. It was something you typically went to several times during the season.”
The origins of the Christmas Market date back to the to the late Middle Ages in German-speaking parts of Europe. During Advent, many folks would prepare for Christmas by gathering, visiting with friends and shopping in the open air markets, often called Christkindlesmarkt (meaning Christ child market).
While the Christmas market has German Christian roots, Kluetz says today, the Vancouver Christmas Market is for everyone, from all nationalities and beliefs. And the roster of vendors reflects an international coziness. In addition to beautifully crafted, handmade wooden German Christmas ornaments, the Market boasts traditional Turkish handmade soaps, glass ornaments from Egypt, locally knit wool toques and mittens, and more.
And then, there is the food! Visitors can treat themselves to the Market’s array of mouth-watering treats, including bratwurst, gulasch, spätzle (don’t miss Captain and the Chef Spätzle Haus), schnitzel, and Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, stollen, candy apples and more.
The Vancouver Christmas Market and Children’s Wish Foundation have partnered for the 2017 season to help grant the most heartfelt wishes of BC children diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. During the market’s ‘Children’s Wish Week’, from December 16 to 24, Children’s Wish will be collecting donations and selling ‘wish wands’ at booths throughout the market.
The Vancouver Christmas Market runs through Dec. 24, from 11 am to 9 pm. Single Admission Adult $10, Seniors $9, Youth $5, and children under six are free. At Jack Poole Plaza, (Vancouver Convention Centre West) 1055 Canada Place.