Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is affectionately known as "the Christmas city'' due to its biblical name, and around the holiday season every year, part of the city transforms into Christkindlmarkt. This Christmas market pays homage to Christkindlmarkts found throughout Germany. These outdoor markets traditionally run from the beginning of December to Christmas Eve and feature demonstrations from local artists, German foods, and handmade holiday gifts.
Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt began in 1993 to bring live music, shopping, and food to the downtown Bethlehem area. This market has grown since its humble beginnings to now attract over 60,000 visitors. It was named one of the top holiday markets in the world in 2007 by Travel and Leisure magazine, significant because many of the European markets have been opening every December for over a century.
The crafters, entertainers, and food vendors at Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt change annually. Entertainment starts at 10:30 AM daily and in the past has included carolers, local school and church choirs, string quartets, brass ensembles, and more. The food at Christkindlmarkt has a German flair, including traditional foods like strudel, roasted almonds, cakes, and soup. All of this food, along with specialty coffee and other hot drinks, can be found at the market's Tannenbaum Cafy.
Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt features two large tents and a courtyard. Along with food vendors and entertainers, visitors can find 20 or more different vendors selling holiday gifts like ornaments and nutcrackers. These vendors, found inside the Christmas tent, also have baked goods for sale, which guests can eat while walking around the market, take home to eat later, or give as gifts. The Christmas Tent also has the official Christkindlmarkt store, where shoppers can purchase clothing and other merchandise with the Christmas City logo. There, one can also purchase Christmas City Cocoa, a popular gift for all ages.
While at Christkindlmarkt, visitors can also see ice carving demonstrations, learn about flameworking, or check out the 26-foot-tall Christmas tress. In addition, there are different demonstrations and activities annually, depending on the vendors. For example, in 2009, the GlassWorks at the Banana Factory attended the event to demonstrate glass blowing, creating beautiful glass ornaments in front of visitors' eyes. Children especially love visiting Santa Claus, a main fixture at the market. Kids of all ages can talk to Santa, telling him their Christmas wishes and getting their pictures taken.
Christkindlmarkt begins annually at the end of November and runs through the weekend before Christmas. It opens Thursday through Sunday at 10:00 AM, remaining open until 6:00 PM on Sundays and 8:00 PM every other night. Admission to the Christkindlmarkt costs $8 for adults and is free for anyone aged 12 and under. Guests can receive a discount by purchasing tickets early online or can purchase season passes for just $14, which allows access during the entire season. They're closed at times during inclement weather. For more information, visitors can call 610-332-1300, extension 810.