Holiday Cheer at the Christmas Village

Finding Deals In Its Crooked Paths

J.Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia – Charles Dickens once complained about the “distractingly regular” street layout of the otherwise “handsome” city of Philadelphia. “I would give the world for a crooked street,’ he said.

  With its many crooked pathways, the “Christmas Village” at Love Park, that has drawn thousands of shoppers into its warm confines the past two weeks, would likely have satisfied the British novelist’s imagination.

      “These are gorgeous,” said Daniela Sceaml, as she glanced at an arrangement of glistening wooden bowls and vases offered by Peruvian vendor Norka Inka, stationed at the 15th Street entrance of Christmas Village.

    It’s the type of remark Thomas Bauer has become accustomed to hearing over the last six years.  A native of  Nuremberg, Germany, the birthplace the “Christmas Village,” Mr. Bauer has succeeded in transporting the concept to a city of Philadelphia that, in the early 18th century, was home to thousands German immigrants.

  Today, the large crowds strolling through the Christmas Village’s mazelike arrangement of booths – drawn by its eclectic collection of handcrafted goods – has made it one of the distinctive and colorful features of the city’s holiday season.     

 “We had a great season last year,” Mr. Bauer told El Hispano, voicing optimism for this year.  “But for us it’s not exactly the economic (climate), as it is the weather,” that determines the success of the holiday shopping season. “It helps if the  economy is working well. But people always get gifts for their loved ones.”

    Elaborating on the unique concept of the Christmas Village, Mr. Bauer noted that people “can come and shop from a small business that offers a wide variety of handcrafted things and imported things, often from remote places.”

   “So you have a really wonderful and unique products that you won’t find in any department store or Mall.”  Of the new vendors to the Village, Mr. Bauer highlighted one who sells a “spreadable bacon,” and another that offers rare chocolates

    Amid this international bazaar of tiny shops and booths, are representatives of some twenty-five different countries, including vendors from Peru, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Tibet,  Germany, France, Egypt, Ukraine, Austria, Russia, Ireland, and Nepal. Within the circular layout of booths can be found various handmade decorative items and Christmas ornaments,  Kitchen, bath and living room accessories, exquisite pottery, ornate jewelry, fresh breads, aged wines, and a wide array of handcrafted clothes – from scarves and gloves to dresses, jackets and hats.  

   The aromas of Belgian Waffles, Latin American Churro, German Almond Strudel and Bratwurst mingles with hot cider and flavored coffees, as families pause at an elaborately festooned booth, often finding an unusual gift at reasonable prices.  Whether it’s thick, handknit wool jackets made in either South America or Nepal, or hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments from Egypt, or even the handmade dolls from the Ukraine, “the craftsmanship dates back to centuries,” explained Ukrainian Lucy Stark.    

Vince Thompson, a media spokesman, noted that a few of the temporary shops are inhabited by vendors from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. “So the Village also has a very local” appeal.

  The opening ceremony, Saturday, was followed on Wednesday, by the lighting of the Village’s Christmas Tree. Being a venerable German tradition, there is a German American weekend which will include German-American dance groups that will be performing on December 7th.  

 In addition, there is a charity event on the weekend of December 12th, which will raise funds for the “Make-A-Wish Foundation.” And the weekend of the Army-Navy Game will include special programming and events.

   Beginning December 7th and every weekend after until Dec. 28th, the Village will have a specifically designed play-area for children. “So bring the kids down,” added Mr. Thompson.