Chicago

14 Things You Can't Miss at 2021 Christkindlmarket

‚ÄėTis the season for strudel, steins, and all things Gl√ľhwein.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the beloved Christkindlmarket in Chicago, a tradition inspired by Christmas street markets in Germany dating all the way back to the late middle ages. Originally, vendors would congregate in town squares as the winter months set in, selling homemade items, seasonal food, and hot (i.e. boozy) beverages as a remedy for the chill plus, of course, live music and dancing. And today’s market, shockingly, is not that different from its European beginnings. This year, Daley Plaza downtown will host a robust collection of vendors while the market’s Wrigleyville location at Gallagher Way is part of the city’s Winterland festivities.

In addition to browsing locally made gifts, visitors can also peruse products from across the world like Peruvian alpaca hats and hand-carved ornaments from Germany, all while sipping steamy gl√ľhwein. So whether you’re hunting for unique treasures to wrap up for the in-laws or simply looking for a little holiday cheer, consider this your one stop shop for all things holidays. Here are 14 can’t-miss experiences and products at Christkindlmarket 2021.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Stammtisch Table Reservations in the Timber Haus

Daley Plaza
No need to freeze your booty off-Daley Plaza’s Christkindlmarket location is stocked with an alpine-themed heated indoor dining area complete with decorated tables, live music on the weekends, and curated German meals and beverages serving parties up to eight for 90 minute seatings. Snag one of five reservation packages varying in quantities of German beer, juicy brats, pretzels, souvenir steins, sauerkraut, and other incentives. And if you’d rather stop by without a reservation, you can still take advantage of a la carte snacks like currywurst, N√ľrnberger-style bratwurst, strudel, stollen, potato soup, pretzels, hot chocolate, and, yes, more beer.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Kinder Club Lantern Parade

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate dancing and singing traditional Christmas Carols amid the glow of illuminated lanterns and a real-life fairy. Both markets will host the Lantern Parade this year as an ode to German long-held tradition, in which children would go out after dark carrying lanterns and singing folk songs in hopes of being rewarded with treats-kind of like Halloween but a lot less spooky. The Lantern Parade also commemorates St. Martin, known as a friend to children and a patron of the poor. Expect to see Christkind, a folklore angelic gift-giver, who provides lanterns and bags of goodies for the kiddos while guiding the singing crowd through the market. Both events take place from 4 to 6 pm, with Daley Plaza kicking things off on December 1 and Gallagher Way following on December 12.

DonerMen
DonerMen
DonerMen

DönerMen

Daley Plaza
D√∂nerMen, one of Chicago’s favourite German food trucks, is back serving their signature d√∂ner kebabs this year. The no-frills cuisine makes a great late-night snack, consisting of shaved roasted chicken layered with cucumber yogurt, spicy red pepper sauce, cabbage, tomato, and greens, all wrapped in freshly baked Turkish flatbread. Other dishes like Currywurst-a fusion of Indian spices and German sausage-is also on hand to fuel your Christmas shopping adventure.

Bob's Belgian Hot Chocolate
Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate
Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate

Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Good hot chocolate can be hard to find, but Bob has you covered. Throw out that tub of nesquik, ditch the hand warmers, and pick up a cup of Bob’s Belgian-style brew this year. Bob’s homemade hot chocolate is not only delicious, but extremely celebrated, with six certificates from The Chocolate Academy (yes, this exists). His hot cocoa is made from a blend of 100% imported dark chocolate with sugar, milk, and a few other balancing ingredients. Make sure to grab some hot chocolate mix to take with you-it’s stocking-stuffer gold.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Winterland

Gallagher Way
This year, the folks over at Gallagher Way are not messing around when it comes to seasonal festivities. Christmkindlemarket has teamed up with Winterland to bring a variety of winter programming aimed to stem off those winter blues. Along with the market, expect an ice skating rink, a tree lighting ceremony, ice bumper cars, curling, holiday movies, a wreath-making workshop, and curated activities with Hotel Zachary. And, of course, an appearance by Santa Claus to keep the fans happy. Check out the official Winterland events calendar for more info.

Winterborn Alpaca
Winterborn Alpaca
Winterborn Alpaca

Winterborn Alpaca

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You know how they say don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach because you may just end up buying too much? Keep that old adage in mind when stopping by Winterborne Alpaca’s inviting booth as the temperatures drop. Their ethically sourced Andean alpaca fiber is hand-woven using textile traditions from Quechua artisans, and the company was founded by Canadian designers who work with a single family in Ecuador as well as a Peruvian women’s cooperative to make each piece. Hit them up for socks, shawls, mittens, beanies, and scarves guaranteed to keep you warm and snug clear through spring, alongside adorable child-safe plush stuffed animals perfect for that new niece or nephew.

St. Roger Abbey

Daley Plaza
‚ÄėTis the season for giving, and when you spend your money with St. Rogers Abbey, you’ll be supporting a good cause-not to mention you’ll be getting something delicious out of it too. The folks behind this Willamette institution adhere to classic French baking techniques, serving up gourmet pastries like buttery Croissants, Almond Twists, and sweet Macaroons. Profits go toward helping those most in need by providing food for their soup kitchen and facilitating afterschool programs.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Bavarian Tradition

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Bavarian Tradition is manning several booths this year, each with a unique assortment of decorative items like clove and spice wreaths, painted jumping jacks, incense houses, and authentic German ornaments. The ornaments and Christmas collections come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from hand-painted pewter nativity scenes and intricately carved wooden nutcrackers to delicate glass and rhinestone snowflakes, soft gnomes, and hand-knitted frosties. Each ornament is a one of a kind work of art made by German artisans and inspired by, you guessed, Bavarian traditions.

Käthe Wohlfahrt of America
Käthe Wohlfahrt of America
Käthe Wohlfahrt of America

Käthe Wohlfahrt of America

Daley Plaza
Starting from humble beginnings in the 1960s, Wilhelm and Kathe Wohlfahrt began peddling music boxes at holiday bazaars in Germany and, ever since, the company has flourished. Today, they sell a variety of German-inspired specialty items from beer steins and advent calendars to Schwibbogen, cuckoo clocks, decorated incense smokers, painted ornaments, figurines, chocolates, candles, and more, all crafted with expert, time-tested skill.

Baked Cheese Haus

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
You can’t go wrong with cheese dripping over bratwursts and toasted bread. Wisconsin’s Baked Cheese Haus offers alpine-style Raclette smothering everything from sandwiches to brats. A standout is Jambon Cru, which comes with melted Raclette over cured ham, onion, Dijon mustard, and baby gherkins all inside a warm and toasty baguette. Don’t forget to grab a cup of hot Honeycrisp Apple Cider to wash it all down.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

Glaszauber Lauscha & Unique Glass Ornaments

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
Don your tree with twinkly glass treasures made in Lauscha, Germany courtesy of Glaszauber Lauscha in Daley Plaza. Beautifully blown glass orbs, each painted with detailed wintery scenes covered in snow top the roster at this festive retailer. Over in Gallagher Way, Unique Glass offers colourful glass orbs alongside less conventional shapes like incredibly detailed flying pigs, octopuses, hummingbirds, unicorns, elephants, pickles, and more.

United Chocolate Works
United Chocolate Works
United Chocolate Works

United Chocolate Works

Daley Plaza
You won’t know whether to eat the chocolate at United Chocolate Works or marvel at it like a piece of art. Taking candy creation to a whole new level, they mold their chocolate into playfully realistic shapes like handheld scissors, adjustable wrenches, paint brushes, and delicate roses. And they don’t just look pretty-their decadent handcrafted Belgian chocolate is also extremely delicious.

Wooden Treasures & Wooden Wonders

Daley Plaza
Whether you’re looking for beautiful wooden furnishings or a fun decorative figurine, both Wooden Treasure and Wooden Wonders have it all. Along with their stunning carved creations, Wooden Wonders also offers handcrafted collectables inspired by Eastern Slavic folk traditions, while Wooden Treasures stocks everything from carved fairies and gargoyles to smoking dragons and animal-shaped key rings.

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago
Christkindlmarket Chicago

German Grill & The Austrian Lodge

Daley Plaza & Gallagher Way
For all things sausage and strudel, German Grill at Daley Plaza and The Austrian Lodge at Gallagher Way can satisfy any market-born craving. Highlights include platters stacked high with N√ľrnbergers, Frankfurters, Wei√üw√ľrste, Th√ľringers, spicy Kilometer sausages, and Currywurst, mounds of Sauerkraut and Leberk√§se (AKA sliced pork loaf), plus hearty sides like fried potatoes and potato pancakes and plenty of drinks to keep you hydrated. Finish up with an order of homemade apple strudel, if you know what’s good for you.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Elanor Bock is a contributor for Thrillist.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.