Winter Joys Abound Downtown at Christkindlsmarkt

Lily Kamrath, Managing Editor

Everyone has their own traditions during the holiday season, and there is certainly no shortage of festivity in the West Metro during the winter months. Despite being an absolute mouthful to recite five times fast, Christkindlsmarkt, which took place last weekend, is one of downtown Excelsior’s most charming and quintessential events. 

Thought to be established in Dresden, Germany in 1434, the festival was brought overseas to downtown Chicago in the winter of 1995. Inspired by the Chicago Christkindlsmarkt, Excelsior adopted the tradition in 2005, bringing holiday joy to families in the metro area. 

This Germanic celebration is held in honor of Christkind, an angelic Christmas figure often shown with feminine, golden features. Christkind was created in the 16th century and is regarded as the traditional gift-bringer in many European countries. She opens every Christkindlsmarkt on Friday morning with an opening speech ending in the lines:


You men and women, who once yourselves were children,

Be them again today, happy as children be,

And now the Christkind to its market calls,

And all who come are truly welcome.” 


Tenley Rutledge, ‘23, and her mother Nadine have attended the market every year since Tenley was a toddler. The Rutledges consider Christkindlsmarkt one of their family’s holiday traditions.

Tenley recalled, “I remember the main reason we always went was for the Santa Trolley…and that was where I always told Santa what I wanted for Christmas.”

Nadine added, “It was fun watching [Tenley] as a little kid looking at all the reindeer and seeing Santa on the trolley, shopping outside with the fires lit was very cozy and very Christmassy…[Tenley was] in awe, it was very sweet and special.”

Meghan Ische, ‘23, attended Christkindlsmarkt with her family for many years before working with one of the vendors last year in 2021. 

When asked her favorite part of the celebration, Ische answered, “The community; everybody there is just there to enjoy the winter and the spirit.” She added, smiling, “My favorite part is the old people walking around, they’re so adorable.” 

The Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt is a fully volunteer-driven organization that has become a cornerstone of the holiday season in the Minnetonka area. The market relies on donations in the form of ticket sales to keep the event running year after year.

The event attracts guests, vendors, musicians and even animals from in and out of Minnesota. The 2022 Christkindlsmarkt lineup included special appearances from personalities such as Minnesota Vikings players and German musician and yodeler Troy Fleming, as well as genuine Alaskan reindeer, which are always a crowd favorite. 

Christkindlsmarkt attendees hail from all over the metro, though Nadine and Tenley concluded that certain groups were more prominent than others: namely young families and their kids, millennials drawn to the Excelsior Brewery and older, longtime Excelsior residents that attend all the town’s events. 

Though the celebration has changed over the centuries, the Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt event organizers do their best to keep the spirit of the tradition alive with opportunities for guests to learn about the festival and its history, making it a very unique, culturally rich experience. 

Luke Rowen, ‘23, attended the festival for the first time last year as a performer with the Minnetonka High School Choir. He returned again this winter with both the MHS Chamber Choir and as a member of a singing quartet. 

A newcomer to the festival, Rowen was surprised by the presence of krampus, or “German Santa Claus demons”, as he humorously described them. In Alpine countries’ folklore, the krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic beast that punishes naughty children; the “bad cop” to Santa’s “good cop”. 

Despite being a Christmas-themed event with German roots, the celebration can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation. Rowen stated, “I think it really has to do more with German [culture], it’s not a super religious or Christian event, it has more to do with general secular Christmas stuff.” 

Tenley described the atmosphere of the market as “very comfortable and homey; it made me feel like I was in a Hallmark movie. I love when they put up the lights and everyone gets bundled up.” 

If you didn’t get a chance to make it to the Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt this year, do not cry into your milk and cookies. Instead, mark your calendars for similar winter events taking place in the Twin Cities through January, which will be sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Winter Light Show (Nov. 17-Jan. 1)

“Holidazzle” in Downtown Minneapolis (Nov. 25-Dec. 18)

The Guthrie Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” Production (Nov. 19-Dec. 31)

Norway House’s “Gingerbread Wonderland” (Nov. 22-Jan. 8)