Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem
Bethlehem Travel Blog› entry 5 of 24 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.