In Europe, open-air Christmas markets are a longtime tradition. They’re a perfect match for the Chesapeake Bay region, too. Instead of shopping at a busy mall or from behind your computer screen, you can find gifts walking among twinkling lights, drinking warm Glühwein and eating slices of melted Swiss raclette cheese.
At Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a German Christmas Village appears each year from November until Christmas Eve. And this year for the first time, Newport News, Virginia is in the second year of its own German Christmas Market.
Located along the Promenade and at West Shore Park, the German Christmas Village in Baltimore celebrates its 10th anniversary with its largest footprint yet. The village includes a 65-foot lighted Ferris wheel with sweeping views of the water, a holiday carousel with horses and festive reindeer and the centerpiece of the market—a 30-foot-tall Christmas Pyramid, a tower whose tradition comes from the Ore Mountains, where villages built towers in the shape of Middle Ages Christmas trees.
There are vendors in wooden booths and also a large, heated festival tent where visitors can warm up as they shop for glass ornaments from famous German artist Käthe Wohlfahrt and other vendors.
Food offerings include all manner of bratwurst (they’re even trying out vegan wurst!), potato pancakes, Raclette cheese sandwiches, and bacon on a stick. For drinks, there’s a selection of German mulled wine, hot cocoa and other drinks to warm you. A new cocktail bar, the Winter Wunder Bar, features an alpine ski hut the signature holiday cocktails and frozen slushies.
“This time of year on the Baltimore Waterfront is truly magical,” said Nancy Schmalz, Project Manager of Christmas Village.
Meanwhile in the Virginia section of the Bay, a new market tradition has just begun. At Newport’s City Center at Oyster Point, the second ever Weihnachtsmarrkt was held last weekend, inspired by the city’s Sister City of Greifswald, Germany.
With several vendors bringing wares from handmade wreaths to carved wood products, the quaint market was the dream of Sister Cities Newport News. The organization describes itself as a group of “citizen diplomats working for peace, understanding and economic growth” that partners with cities in Japan, China and Germany.
The market incorporated German traditions along with local Virginia vendors, serving Glühwein (which translates to “glow wine” for the warm feeling it gives) and German foods. Stay tuned for the return of Weihnachtsmarrkt next year.
You have another few weeks left to check out the Baltimore village, as it runs until Dec. 24, 2023, with extended hours and special events multiple nights of the weeks. Learn more here.
-Meg Walburn Viviano