Vancouver’s German Christmas market celebrates 10-year anniversary

VANCOUVER — For centuries, communities in Germany have transformed town squares into glittering Christmas markets, where visitors feast on roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, and browse stalls piled high with artisan wares.

The Vancouver Christmas Market brought this holiday tradition to the city’s drizzly downtown core 10 years ago. This Yuletide, organizers are celebrating the anniversary with their biggest market yet.

“For us, it’s just super special that, after 10 years, it really shows that Vancouverites have welcomed this concept,” said Denise Wegener, president of the market, while sipping fragrant Austrian kinderpunsch, a warm non-alcoholic drink spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

“That’s such a rewarding aspect for us because it is so close to our hearts and we pour our hearts, obviously, into putting this event together. It’s just amazing to see that we have so many people coming back over the years.”

Wegener, 30, is from Hanover, Germany, and immigrated to Canada 10 years ago. She was a university student who nabbed a part-time job with the market during its first year, eager to help bring a piece of her homeland to Vancouver.

Since then, she’s moved up through the ranks, even serving a brief but memorable stint as one of the market’s gingerbread mascots, Holly and Jolly. She said it’s hard work to create a “little German village” in the heart of Vancouver every year but it’s a labour of love for staff and volunteers.

The market has moved from its original location outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to a larger space at Jack Poole Plaza on the city’s waterfront, with a picturesque view of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains.

This year, 20 new vendors have been added for a total of 80 stalls lining the market’s twinkling lanes, of which 24 are food or beverage and 56 are merchandise.

The food and beverage huts feature classic favourites such as German spiced mulled wine called gluhwein, Bavarian beer, bratwurst, pork hocks and pretzels. There are also lesser-known standouts including raclette, which is gooey, freshly melted Swiss cheese poured over meat or veggies, and poffertjes, Dutch miniature pancakes piled with sweet toppings such as strawberries and Nutella.

Christmas gifts or housewares are sourced around the globe, from locally crafted glassware and jewelry to traditional European wooden toys and nutcrackers, and this year’s event has a greater focus on sustainability with more eco-friendly sellers.

There’s also plenty of family fun with a brightly lit carousel, photos with Santa, a nine-metre Christmas tree, treasure hunt and a kids’ arts and crafts igloo hosted by 4Cats Arts Studio. For couples, there’s a 12-metre lovers’ lane enveloped in lights and an opportunity to seal one’s romance with a love lock.

Anyone hoping to host a party or gathering at the market has the option of booking a one-hour reservation at the Wunderbar, a heated, wood-panelled hideaway where mixologists shake up cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages served with charcuterie boards or German desserts.

The market opened on Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 24, with daily hours of 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. apart from Christmas Eve when it closes at 6 p.m.

An online adult ticket costs $12.99 and comes with a complimentary season pass while entry at the door costs $15, with the option of adding $1 for a season pass.

“The Vancouver Christmas Market is not an event you just go to once,” said Wegener. “You do want to come back and get that Christmas gift that you couldn’t get the time before because you were with your sweetheart. You do go back and sample the different foods and beverages because you can’t possibly sample everything at the same time.”

If you go:

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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