The 630 | It Takes a Village

December 2017 View more

What is the greatest value of the Christkindlmarket open-air holiday village, which returns to Naper Settlement for a second season this month?

The novelty of a quaint German burgh plopped down in the middle of suburbia is certainly a draw, particularly when that little village is decked out for the season. There’s also the unique holiday shopping opportunity offered by the dozens of independent vendors selling everything from handmade ornaments and sweaters to traditional toys and one-of-a-kind cuckoo clocks—this is about as far from the mall as you can get. And, of course, many visitors will have a hard time ever getting past the food tents, where they’ll warm up with authentic bratwurst and sauerkraut, potato pancakes, strudel, donuts and roasted nuts.

All of these attributes, however, pale in comparison to the most persuasive attraction of the Christkindlmarket—and one of the reasons why the original iteration in downtown Chicago has grown into such a beloved annual tradition over the past two decades: its ability to bring a community together at a time of the year when people more often tend to hunker down in the solitude of their own homes or, when they do opt to head out, operate with a single-minded focus on completing their many holiday tasks. This is no small feat. Not a lot of people do door-to-door caroling these days, tree-trimming is kind of an every-man-for-himself endeavor and even the notion of rubbing elbows with friends and neighbors out shopping is fading into antiquity as cyberspace becomes the new retail go-to.

So the idea of people coming together amid the wintertime elements to toast the season with a hot chocolate or traditional German glühwein, to socially connect in a way that has nothing to do with a phone, to unplug and celebrate with family during the Lantern Parade (just one of the many activities planned for Kindertag, or “Kids’ Day,” on December 10)—these are the moments of conversation, conviviality and connection that comprise the real value of the Naperville Christkindlmarket.

Because what was true in 16th-century Germany is just as true today: While a handwoven scarf or sweater is certainly a nice gesture for the holidays, it’s no match for the genuine fabric of a community.

The Naperville Christkindlmarket is open Thursdays through Sundays until December 24 (and every day between December 18 and 21) at Naper Settlement, 523 South Webster. Call 312.494.2175 or visit for more information.