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Carmel marks start of holiday season with return of Christkindlmarkt, ice rink, tree lighting

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The city of Carmel marked the start of the holiday season Saturday with the return of the beloved Christkindlmarkt.

The traditional European Christmas market debuted last year at 10 Center Green, drawing more than 150,000 visitors with its authentic German cuisine, crafts, decorations and entertainment.

Jim Brainard, the mayor of Carmel, said he was inspired to create a winter festival celebrating German heritage and culture after visiting various holiday markets in Germany.

The Hoosier version, he told News 8, was an exact replica of what he had envisioned in Carmel. 

New attractions this year include additional food and gift vendors, a hanging grill and the nation’s tallest Glühwein pyramid. The 33-foot wooden structure towers above more than 45 vendor huts and will serve 11 varieties of sweet German wine and beer, in addition to two non-alcoholic flavors.

Inside the huts, German artisans craft one-of-a-kind ornaments, music boxes, nutcrackers, candle arches and other trinkets.

Christian Werner, a woodcarver from eastern Germany, welcomed News 8 into his hut and wordlessly transformed a slab of wood into an intricately-cut ring that he would later slice into animal-shaped figurines. 

He had been carving wood his entire life, he said in German, and welcomed the opportunity to share a longtime family tradition with central Indiana. 

Maria Murphy, the CEO and “market master” of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, said she had initially spotted Werner’s work in Germany and immediately sought to bring the craftsman to Indiana. 

She and his friends watched, trance-like, as he shaved ribbons of wood off a sliced tree trunk, his hands appearing to move as fast as his circular saw. 

“This was a family tradition that was almost lost,” Murphy told News 8. “His father had to teach him in secret. It’s wonderful to know he can share it with us now [in Carmel].”

Another spokesperson for the market said she had spent “all year” preparing for Saturday’s festivities and anticipated crowds of visitors from across the country. 

The opening date of this year’s Christkindlmarkt coincides with the return of the city’s only outdoor skating rink – The Ice at Center Green – as well as the annual tree lighting ceremony. 

The rink will be open to the public Wednesday through Sunday – with the exception of Thanksgiving – until December 23. Between December 26 and January 6, the rink will be open daily. Between January 10 and March 10, the rink will be open from Thursday through Sunday. Hours, skate session times and admission prices can be found online.

The city will host a day of free holiday ceremonies and performances Saturday at Center Green, including the following highlights:

  • 11:30 a.m. Opening ceremony
  • 12:00 p.m. Alphorns
  • 1:00 p.m. Jay Fox Band Trio “Jammin Germans”
  • 3:30 p.m. Santa arrives
  • 3:40 p.m. Mayor Brainard’s welcome
  • 4:10 p.m.Indiana Ballet Conservatory
  • 4:40 p.m. ATI Trio featuring Don Farrell, Judy Fitzgerald and Cynthia Collins
  • 5:10 p.m. Carmel Symphony Brass Quintet
  • 5:30 p.m. Annual tree lighting ceremony
  • 5:40 p.m. Central Indiana Dance Ensemble
  • 6:10 p.m. Carmel Middle School Choir
  • 7:15 p.m. Polka Bob