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A man hands a mug of hot, mulled wine to a woman from behind a wooden outdoor bar.
The scent of Glühwein in the air means Christkindlemarket is back.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Christkindlemarket Lights Up Daley Plaza Once More for Everyone, Naughty or Nice

The iconic market is back with its collectable steins in Daley Plaza and Gallagher Way after a pandemic hiatus

Chicago is distinctly jollier this December thanks to the return of the Christkindlemarket, the German-inspired holiday fair that has brought Christmas merriment to the city for a quarter century. A beloved ritual for many locals and visitors, the market’s reemergence is now especially meaningful, as last year’s events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, organizers are spreading even more cheer at Daley Plaza and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville.

A man and two women wearing coats and hats stand outdoors around a tall cafe table holding cups of dark beer and smiling.
Spirits are even higher than usual this year, enhanced by German beers and hot mulled wine.

Families and groups of friends have trooped out since mid-November to grin at each other over beer steins, peruse an selection of candies and tree ornaments in nearly every shape and color, and bounce along to the musical stylings of a lederhosen-clad Oompah band. The Daley Plaza location remains open through December 24, while Wrigleyville stays open through December 31.

Patrons aren’t the only ones delighted to see the market resembling its former self: local and European food vendors are also happy to be back, as most were left by the wayside by last year’s virtual pivot. Organizers didn’t have the delivery infrastructure to produce and transport classics like like bratwurst and raclette, which left vendors without a valuable opportunity to introduce their brands to new customers.

“There was never any question of [the market] not coming back,” director of operations Kate Bleeker told Eater in September. “Last year with all the cancelations, it was hard on all the vendors. They’re all small business owners and had a hard time making it through.”

An older person’s hands hold out two blue mugs.
This year’s annual keepsake mug celebrates the fair’s 25th anniversary.

In Daley Plaza, attendees can find traditional hits like hot-off-the-griddle potato pancakes, strudel from the legendary Dinkel’s Bakery, and kebabs and currywurst from DönerMen. There’s also plenty of Glühwein — a hot, spiced wine that does double duty as a hand- and belly-warmer — served in the Christkindlemarket’s annual keepsake mug.

A two food vendors place a pile of sauerkraut on top of a bratwurst in a bun.
German-style hits include bratwurst smothered in sauerkraut.
A hand holds out a bratwurst in a bun under a spigot of German mustard.

The scene does look a lot like the Before Times, but pandemic safety remains a concern. Market attendees are required to wear masks in all indoor spaces, but face coverings are optional (though highly encouraged) in outdoor sections when not actively eating and drinking.

Though last year’s virtual market was a relative success (eager buyers even crashed the its website), the palpable excitement of current market crowds confirms that nothing can replace the magic of the real, live Christkindlemarket. Explore the downtown market in all its festive glory in the photos below.

Christkindlemarket Chicago; Daley Plaza at 50 W. Washington Street; Open through December 24; Gallagher Way at 3635 N. Clark Street; Open through December 31.

Two trays of fudge and marzipan sit on a glass display case.
Three rows of trays piled high with beautiful truffles of varying shapes and colors.
Three men wearing lederhosen play a saxophone, a trumpet, and an accordion stand outside a wooden building.

An Oompah band adds an extra spark of German flair to the proceedings.

Customers in coats line up in front of a large outdoor food stand with a sign that reads “Schnitzel & Potato Pancake House.”
There’s lots to try, from potato pancakes to goulash.
A vendor stands in front of a large flat-top griddle covered with round potato pancakes.
Each pancake is griddled to a golden brown.
A food vendor tends to a pan of roasted nuts behind a plexiglass window.
A vendor hands a plate of food through a low window to a patron wearing a mask.
Vendors are happy to be back at Christkindlemarket after last year’s virtual fair.
A customer in a Santa hat holds a basket of ornaments as she looks at a huge retail selection of ornaments in boxes.
Ornament collectors may feel like a kid in a candy store at Christkindlemarket.
A close-up shot of ornaments shaped like the large red “Chicago” sign outside of the Chicago Theater.
Chicago gets its own special ornaments, too.

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