This past weekend I took the 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Scranton to the town of Bethlehem, PA- a perfectly named place to find some Holiday Cheer. They say there’s no place like New York at Christmas, and while I will admittedly also be traveling there this upcoming weekend, this PA market will be a life long memory. Celebrating 26 years, the Christkindlmarkt features over 150 vendors. After paying an entrance fee of 10 dollars, you enter lavishly decorated tents, all exploding with the scent of cinnamon and butter.
The tents are packed with a wide range of businesses selling everything from alpaca wool socks, to local art, to gourmet peanut butters, and so much more. The fascinating parts of markets like these, is their ability to create personal connections with unique products that can’t be found in one place anywhere else. Even large corporations get in on the fun like Crayola, who had a creativity booth set up, perfect for young kids to design their own Christmas dreams.
My favorite tent was the German company Kathe Wohlfahrt display. I had taken German for 6 years through school and have always wished to travel there and experience a real German Christmas market. I never knew I could get so close to the real thing without a passport. My former teachers would tell stories about the traditions of the German people, and their incredible artistry that is unmatched at Christmas. Detailed cuckoo clocks, nut cracker men, and wooden displays, all hand carved and painted lined a maze through the tent.
I took home a stunning handmade ornament of a glittering green snail- my favorite animal, made in Germany. Never would I have dreamed of combining two of my favorite and seemingly random interests into one, but unique markets like these allow for those exciting connections to be made.
We also found a stand specializing in creating family trees. The company would take the names of each member you wanted to include, and write the meaning of their name a next to a pressed flower. My dad has spent hours and hours and hours researching his family history, and piecing together the people of his past. We even took a trip to Canada a few summers ago to find the places where his family was buried and lived. I have a slight obsession with flowers and this small stand was an interesting way for us to connect with each other.
On our way out, we got stuck in a crowd which turned out to be a line for a Danish desert called Stroopies. We decided their aroma was too enticing and since we were apparently in line anyway, to give some a try. The young woman in front of us gasped with excitement as she realized what she was inline for. My dad asked her if they were good then, and she went on to tell us about her recent trip to Copenhagen where she first encountered the cookie. It’s essentially two thin waffles with caramel sandwiched in between. When you’re ready to eat, you heat up a cup of coffee or tea and sit the pastry on top of the mug, letting the steam soften the caramel. To see a stranger have a beautiful moment of bliss as she found a connection to her life she never dreamed of finding in “nowhere Pennsylvania” was incredible. The Stroopie Co., are a Lancaster, PA based Sweet Shoppe that runs their business by employing refugees resettling in the area. This small business is taking their talents and creating good through extending opportunities to those in need while bringing immeasurable joy to customers.
The market beamed with beautiful decorations, live ice sculpture carvings, and more elaborate booths than we could visit in one afternoon. Going into the market I had planned to write about the interesting finds and activities that can be found in my own backyard, but I didn’t realize how personal the experience was going to be. I challenge you to look at what’s close to your home. Who is making a difference near you? What opportunities can you find? What magic can you create?