Christkindlmarkt Has Become Part Of Ottawa Valley Christmas Tradition
Pembroke’s Christkindlmarkt started out in 1998 with a two-fold purpose: to provide people with a German background with some of the traditions they remembered from an earlier time in their lives, and to introduce the community at large to some of the rich traditions surrounding the German Christmas culture.
It has certainly succeeded on both counts. The 2004 Christkindlmarkt, held from November 26 to 28, welcomed approximately 3,800 visitors.
"It has definitely become part of the Christmas tradition in Pembroke and in the Ottawa Valley as a whole," said Marie Zettler, who chaired the 2004 event and has been a member of the committee since its inception.
The Germania Club of Pembroke, founded in 1955, has approximately 200 members.
"Over the years, the club has sponsored many very successful Oktoberfest dances," said Mrs. Zettler. "We wanted to show that there’s more to the German culture than Oktoberfest."
Initially, recruiting vendors was a challenge.
"We had to explain the concept of a Christmas market such as is held in German-speaking communities around the world, including North America," said Mrs. Zettler. "We aimed for a mix of vendors with items with a cultural significance as well as high-quality locally-produced arts and crafts. Since the second year, we have always had a waiting list of vendors wanting to be part of the show."
It was a given that the Christkindlmarkt would be attractive to the area’s large German immigrant population. However, it has also struck a responsive chord with the descendants of the more than 12,000 pioneers who emigrated to the Ottawa Valley from German-speaking parts of Europe around 1860.
"This group makes up about 20 per cent of the population of the Ottawa Valley," said Mrs. Zettler. "Completely assimilated in the Canadian culture, they are now looking for connections with their roots."
Also among Christkindlmarkt fans are army families at nearby CFB Petawawa, many of whom have fond memories of postings in Germany. Also, many of the spouses of Canadian soldiers are native Germans.
"We also have many visitors from the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, and some regulars from Ottawa itself, a two-hour drive from Pembroke," said Mrs. Zettler. "We even have three generations of a Sudbury family who come every year and make the five-hour drive every year."
This year the Christkindlmarkt offered meat products made from wild game, smoked fish, and Kaiserfliesch (smoked meat.) There were also handcrafted items including woodworking, wood carving, stained glass, jewellery, wheel-thrown pottery, dolls, fabric and needlecrafts, floral creations, toys, Christmas decorations, ceramics, china painting, soaps, oil paintings, scroll saw fretwork, and tole painting.
There also was nature photography and handmade paper, and there were homemade muffin, soup, and cookie mixes, maple products, German Christmas baking, imported linens and other merchandise on a traditional German theme, and craft kits for children.
"We also sell Advent wreaths, sprays of greenery, poinsettias, and Alpenveilchen (cyclamens) which are traditional German Christmas gift plants," said Mrs. Zettler. "We are very fortunate to have as our supplier Gerber’s Nursery, owned by a family who originated in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany.".
A highlight of the displays in the hall is a display of the characteristic woodcrafts from the Erzgebirge by Kitchener-area vendors Ingrid and Rüdiger Zersch.
Unlike the "look but don’t touch" atmosphere of many craft and fine art shows, the Germania club strives to make its Christkindlmarkt a family event.
"We have a special opening for seniors and other mobility impaired folks for the first hour on Friday," said Mrs. Zettler. "Santa Claus welcomes all the children at the door and has goodies for them. We have a supervised craft area where children can make their own works of art while their parents shop. And everyone can enjoy sausages, sauerkraut, potato salad, and Kaffee and Kuchen in the upstairs lounge at the hall. Or, if they’re in a rush, they can have Sausage on the Run straight off the barbecue outside the hall."
Next year’s Christkindlmarkt is scheduled for November 25 to 27. For more information, you may contact Marie Zettler at 613-587-4403 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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