Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem

Bethlehem Travel Blog

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Bethlehem's Main Street

Susan and I had discussed over several past holiday seasons about making a trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to see the annual Christkindlmarkt. The more research we did, the more interesting things we found there were to see in Bethlehem! So, this year was it. Off we went on the road on the first Thursday in December (which coincided with Susan's birthday). The road to Bethlehem lead from the Washington, DC, Capitol Beltway to I-270 up to Frederick, Maryland. From Frederick, US Highway 15 lead into Pennsylvania, past Gettysburg to Harrisburg, the state capital, briefly to I-83, and then East on I-78.

Christkindlmarkt
 Just before Allentown, US Highway 22 splits off to cross the region as the Lehigh Valley Expressway. Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley and its cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton formed an industrial heartland. The region was once a formidable engine of American industrial manufacturing, much diminished today. The Lehigh Valley retains some manufacturing, but increasingly it is becoming a bedroom community for commuters working in New York City.

Spotting the exit for our hotel, we made note of it and continued on US 22 to the Center Street exit. Center Street led through an attractive resdential neighborhood. An older one, as these were clearly houses and duplexes from the early part of the 20th century.
Giant Nutcracker
As we reached downtown, it became apparent it was now the end of the school day. Legions of yellow school buses lined the streets picking up students from the public schools and the Moravian Academy. Even as we turned from Main Street on to narrow Walnut Street to enter a downtown parking garage, we found ourselves behind a stopped school bus.

Car parked, it was now time to explore downtown Bethlehem and make our way to Christkindlmarkt. The downtown was lively, full of shops, cafes, and the like and peopled by shoppers, students from Moravian College in search of afternoon coffee, and visitors like ourselves. Bethlehem appeared to have discovered a way to revive and remake itself. At the bottom of Main Street, we asked people at a crossing where Christkindlmarkt was located. They directed us (it was close by) and gave us our first indication how hospitable people were in this town.
Pickle ornaments


Bethlehem's Christkindlemarkt is inspired by the Christmas markets of Central Europe.  It's more in the nature of a craft show (like Sunfest in Ocean City in September) for the Christmas season, rather than taking place in the town's central square. We found the entrance to the two exhibit pavilions downhill from downtown, tucked under a bridge. The region's proud Central European heritage was on display with the banner stating "Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem--Eingang."

The first pavilion featured a number of crafters and retailers with Christmas displays and gift ideas. Prominent among them was the Kathe Wohlfahrt display from Germany. This one contained all manner of handcrafted ornaments, nutcrackers, and incense smokers. We spent some time here and Susan found items for her birthday. After surveying the vendor displays in the first pavilion, it was time for a late lunch.

Wooden candle pyramids are popular
The second pavilion had the food vendors,as well as more crafters. Both Susan and I had a bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut and warm German potato salad. While we ate, we listened to the performer on the stage by the dining area. He sang and played Christmas music, accompanying himself on accordion. He concluded with two unfamiliar Chrsitmas songs in German. The last, Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann ("Santa comes Tomorrow"--to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) seemed especially appropriate to the market ambiance. Making the rounds of more vendor displays, I spoke at length with one of them. He said Thursday was the slowest day, with more visitors arriving on Friday and Saturday. He appeared surprised, but pleased, we had come all the way from the Washington, DC, area, to visit Bethlehem and Christkindlemarkt, especially as we did not know anyone in town (i.
Incense Smoker as Santa
e. did not have friends or relations to visit).

By the time we left it was after 5:00 p.m. and the sun had set.  A friendly fellow directing traffic at Christkindlmarkt pointed out the large illuminated Christmas star on South Mountain. (There has been a star on South Mountain since 1937 when Bethlehem first designated itself "The Christmas City" as a tourist promotion.) The current star was fabricated in steel by Bethlehem Steel in 1939 and refurbished in 2006. The fellow also spoke to us of "The Steel", as the closed Bethlehem Steel works is known hereabouts, and current plans to remake the plant into a casino. We were intrigued and made a note to add a visit to the site to our agenda for the next day.

It was getting darker as we walked back up Church Street to downtown.

Drummer drumming
Bethlehem's city lights were on now, and they made an attractive dsiplay on Main Street. Right here was the Central Moravian Church, the Moravian Musuem, and the Moravian Putz. We walked around the Moravian Church Campus for nighttime photos. We'd return the next day for the different sights here.

Now we returned to US Highway 22 and our hotel, the Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites. It's near other hotels and restaurants, by the airport. Rather than go back into town for dinner, we enjoyed cheeseburgers at a Red Robin.


nathanphil says:
So I guess maybe I did miss a couple cool things during my 8 years in PA...
Posted on: May 29, 2010
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Bethlehems Main Street
Bethlehem's Main Street
Christkindlmarkt
Christkindlmarkt
Giant Nutcracker
Giant Nutcracker
Pickle ornaments
Pickle ornaments
Wooden candle pyramids are popular
Wooden candle pyramids are popular
Incense Smoker as Santa
Incense Smoker as Santa
Drummer drumming
Drummer drumming
Performance stage
Performance stage
Bratwurst vendor
Bratwurst vendor
Christmas Wreaths
Christmas Wreaths
Ice urn
Ice urn
Bethlehems Christmas Star on Sout…
Bethlehem's Christmas Star on Sou…
Main Street illuminated
Main Street illuminated
Moravian Museum and Central Moravi…
Moravian Museum and Central Morav…
Central Moravian Church illuminated
Central Moravian Church illuminated
Bethlehems Christmas Star on Sout…
Bethlehem's Christmas Star on Sou…
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We very much enjoyed our stay at Marriott's Fairfield Inn in Bethlehem, PA. The hotel is located just off US Higway 22 (Lehigh Valley Expressway). It'… read entire review
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Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt
Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is a holiday craft festival inspired by the Christmas markets of Europe. The craft show features many ind… read entire review
Bethlehem
photo by: binky