People know Carmel, Ind. as “the best place to live in America.” Some know it as the “Roundabout capital of the world,” or that one hated city that wins all of the high school state titles, largely as a result of its over 6,000 students. To others, it’s known as just another suburb of Indianapolis. But I know Carmel as my home.
I have fond memories of nearly every street corner. I learned to ride my bike on the famous Monon Trail, learned to drive in the Arts District and was even born at Carmel’s St. Vincent Hospital. Now, at 19 years old, I see Carmel as a bustling city full of communal events and activities.
One such event came about in 2017, when the Carmel Christkindlmarkt opened. It began as a festive holiday market that honors German tradition and culture. The creators of the market took inspiration from traditional Christmas markets in the small towns of Germany.
Since its opening, it has been named the #1 Best Holiday Market by USA Today in 2019 and 2021. Nestled in between the world-famous Palladium and the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, the outdoor market features an ice skating rink, traditional German food and drink offerings, gift booths, live performances and more.
When I arrived at the market, the sun was beginning to set. The Christmas lights began to flicker on, reflecting on the ice rink. I saw several families skating together, reminding me of my childhood.
Next to the ice rink, performers took the stage under the lights of the Winter Pavilion. That night, the featured performers were a group called “The Klezmets.” They performed an array of Christmas songs in both English and German.
The first vendor I visited was the Klassische Holzkunst, which translates to “classic wood art.” It is a booth that features Christmas gifts such as candles and decorations. The booth is run by the Frankenmuth Clock Company, which is based out of Frankenmuth, Mich. The intricate details of the hand-carved wood candle holders caught the attention of many passersby.
The next vendor’s booth I visited was called “Out of the Blue Pottery.” They have two locations in Indiana — one in Carmel and the other in Monticello. “(The pottery on display) is hand-painted in Boleslawiec, Poland, using small sea sponges to apply unique and beautiful stamping patterns,” said owner Ruth Burgard.
The next booth, Vogel German Lace, sold lace and lace decorations. The business is based in Hammerbrücke, Germany.
Baumschmuck aus Lauscha — which translates to “Tree Ornaments from Lauscha, Germany” — specializes in hand-made glass ornaments from Germany. I spoke to Ursula Klause, pictured above, who owns the business with her husband, Bernhardt. “All of our ornaments are from back in Germany, and were glass blown there,” she said.
Both Bernhardt and Ursula treasure the gifts they sell and are inspired by the attributes of their artwork. When a couple purchased a peacock ornament, Bernhardt and Ursula made sure to tell the couple that the peacock is “both confident and proud.”
Zöller & Born — a seller of traditional German Bierkrüge and steins — was my next stop. The intricate designs on the smaller steins, particularly the blue ones, exhibited true old-world artistic craftsmanship.
Colored light decorations sold by Lichterwald Gifts for sale. Emily Alberts/Daily. Buy this photo.
Lichterwald Gifts sells paper star lanterns, Moravian stars and votive candle holders. The multi-colored lights provided a special holiday ambiance. The shop’s charm made it so that I couldn’t resist purchasing the “Starry Night” lotus lantern as a gift for a friend.
Various gifts sold by the Carmel Andenken booth. Emily Alberts/Daily. Buy this photo.
The final booth we visited was the Carmel Andenken, which is operated by a local retailer known as “All Things Carmel.” The vendor sells Carmel-branded wearables, keepsakes and other merchandise that perfectly commemorates this cherished local event.
As night fell, I made my way back to the ice skating rink. It was heartwarming to see parents spend time with their children and watch young couples on their first dates.
Under the Glühwein Pyramid, volunteers served drinks to customers of the market. There were several selections to choose from, including German glühwein, glühbier, select German beers and non-alcoholic punches.
No evening at Christkindlmarkt would be complete without a final stop at Das Schokoladenhaus —“The Chocolate House.” Chocolate-covered hand-dipped treats and specialty hot chocolate are sold here. Indulging in these treats was the perfect way to cap off a holiday evening celebration at my hometown holiday market.
My night at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt was both unique and festive. I was transported for a few hours to a German village, where traditional German culture and heritage were celebrated in an atmosphere full of shopping, food, friends and fun. As I reflect on this annual event, I am so proud of my hometown. I am grateful to live in a place that takes so much pride in making the event so authentic. I hope this tradition continues to grow and prosper in the coming years. It is a wonderful celebration in a wonderful place at a wonderful time of year. And it’s all in my backyard.
Staff Photographer Emily Alberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.