Q&A with Christkindlmarkt CEO Maria Murphy

Jenny Li

What is the Carmel Christkindlmarkt?

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt is an authentic, German Christmas market that sells imported wares from Germany that are handmade for the most part, handpainted, handcrafted one of a kind items. We strive to have authentic food offerings that are unique to the market and something that people can look forward to having as a special treat each year when they come. 

How were you able to acquire the authentic, German items?

So when I was first hired in 2017, one of the first things I did (was) I went to Germany and I began to meet with various artisans that make these different pieces and work with them to get their pricing catalogs and start to order products and get it here.

What is the significance of putting on the Christkindlmarkt?

So for me, it’s been really interesting having been involved with this since 2017 to think about how, now, that it’s been five years of the market with 2017’s market, 2018, 2019, we were closed (in) 2020, then we had it 2021 and now 2022; so this is the fifth year it’s open. There are children—a friend of mine has a 6-year-old and she said to me the other day, “My little one is going to grow up with the Christkindlmarkt always as a part of his holiday experience.” So (what she said) really struck me, and I thought, oh my gosh, there’s a whole generation of people in Indiana and the Midwest who will be able to experience Christkindlmarkt as a part of their holiday tradition for their entire life. That’s just a crazy huge impact to have on someone’s experience of the holidays. 

Were there any obstacles that you faced when planning this year’s Christkindlmarkt?

There are always many obstacles (when planning for the Christkindlmarkt). One thing that is an interesting thing that we did this year was that we have expanded onto the east patio of the Palladium. So in prior years before the construction was happening at the farmer’s market–this is where the Carmel Mayor’s Youth Council would park the bikes so that east patio of the Palladium. In that space we wanted to have some huts, so working through all those logistics with the city and the various construction team over there at the Palladium, like making sure we had enough electricity, we have enough space that would (enough) to construct the entrance and exits on that end of the Palladium. There’s just a lot of logistics to work through in order for us to have booths over there this year and we were able to overcome all those obstacles and we have booths over there, by golly. 

Can you expand on the new booths and huts?

There are 14 new structures at the market this year. One of the things that I am most excited about is that we have added these little huts that are 8-by-8–the normal hut sizes are 12-by-12–and these are little 8-by-8s and they are going to serve just hot chocolate or just Glühwein and their hope is that it will cut down some of the lines that we experience at the market, specifically for those beverages. The Glühwein huts will also serve beer. So I’m really excited about the 8-by-8 huts and I’m really excited that we’re going to add a hut called the Werkstatt. This is a place where we have invited various artisans to come in from Germany and demonstrate their specific skill and artistry. So I’m very excited about that and looking forward to seeing all the programming that’s going to happen in that space. The Werkstatt, the 8-by-8s, we have a new food vendor that’s coming in from Fort Wayne, Ind. and she does something–in English it’s called chimney cakes, in German it’s called Baumstriezel–and these are these lovely little pastries that (are) wrapped around rolling pins.

Roman Gralak

What’s the baking process for the chimney cakes?

You would roll dough out with (a rolling pin) but it’s a special one and you take the dough and you make it into long strips about an inch wide and then you wrap the strip of dough around the rolling pin and kind of roll lightly so that it’s kind of together but not a ton or like completely smooshed together. Then you bake it on a rotisbserie so it’s turning and baking around, and then when you’re done, you slide it off of the rolling pin and you have this cylinder and the heat comes out of the center hollow part and that makes it look like a chimney, ‘cause there’s steam coming out of the top. You can put butter on the outside and roll it in cinnamon and sugar or you can put Nutella inside it, all kinds of different and fun things. So the chimney cake baking is going to be a huge hit this year.

What are some new products that have been added to the market?

We have, on the new products side, we have a hut that’s going to be selling all these beautiful candles and the candle holders have like a theme on them and when you put the votive candle inside, that light illuminates the design on the outside of the votive. So that hut is going to be full of these beautiful lights and lighting elements. They’re also selling the stars, the Herrnhuter Stern, which are the stars that you see at the top of the hut. At the peak of the huts you’ll see a little plastic star and they’re selling smaller versions for the people to take home alongside those candles and the candle holders. Very excited about that booth. And that’s just a handful; there are more.

What are some activities in the Christkindlmarkt that you would recommend people to visit?

Everything is wonderful at the Christkindlmarkt. I would say the kulturell ecke, which means “cultural corner,” that’s the little walk through museum where you can learn how many of our Christmas traditions here in the U.S. actually came from Germany, like Christmas trees were first made popular in Germany, glass ornaments were first invented in Germany, nutcrackers (are) another thing that was made in Germany originally. So there are a number of iconic Christmas things that come from Germany, we have a whole museum about that. So check that out. You can go to guest services and pick up a scavenger hunt and on the scavenger hunt, you’ll see questions and throughout the market, we’ll have what we call our “clues’,” which are these German facts and you have to find the answers to your, I think there are 10 questions. If you find the answers on the clues, then you go to the vendor of that hut with the clue on their hut and you say, “Hey, you’re the answer to Question 2, aren’t you?” and they say, “Yeah, my hut is the answer to Question 2,” and they give you a little stamp. If you get all 10 stamps and go back to guest services, you get a special prize. So that’s a fun activity, you know just ice skating, just watching the entertainment on the stage, eating, buying gifts for your friends, going into the kulturell ecke, color a coloring picture, you can send a letter to Santa, the Werkstatt, you can watch the artisans do their crafts, and there’s another little hut with a train model that rides around, so you can go watch the train. That’s pretty much the wonderful things you can do at the market.

What have you seen people enjoy the most at the market?

Well, I think that people really enjoy the ice skating; that’s super popular. I also think people really enjoy the unique food and drinks that you can’t find anywhere else or any other time of the year. Like the Glühwein, the imported one that comes from Germany or raclette. Those are really, really, really popular. So raclette, ice skating, Glühwein and I think just, overall, the atmosphere. The atmosphere that we set is very, there’s a word in German that’s called “genütlichkeit”, and it means warm and cozy and pleasant and cheerful and holiday feeling; it means all of that and I feel like we have created that genütlichkeit at the market. 

Any final words to the readers?

Come and visit us at the market, we look forward to having you and bring a friend and come in and enjoy a really fun cultural holiday experience. 

Performers dance at Christkindlmarkt. Murphy said there are many other attractions to enjoy while at the market. (Addie Jacobsen)

 

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