Appalachian Kriskindlmarkt

A traditional kriskindlmarkt in Mariazell, Austria. Photo by Rinaldo Wurglitsch on Flickr.
A traditional kriskindlmarkt in Mariazell, Austria. Photo by Rinaldo Wurglitsch on Flickr.

The end of November is a great time to go to Europe. Flights are cheap. Tourists are scant. And one of the continent’s best traditions—Christmas markets—are in full swing. From Hamburg to Zürich, town squares are transformed into winter wonderlands with every imaginable ball and bauble on display in greenery draped stalls and the Euro-version of state fair food making everything smell truly scrumptious.

Sidenote: At a Christmas festival in southern Germany, I once ate some kind of sausage patty on a bun that still infiltrates my dreams. If you can find one for me, I’ll declare you my new best friend.

With Germanic origins, you’d think these kriskindlmarkts, as they’re called in their motherland, might have made their way to Appalachia. Germans poured into the region throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, settling in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and further south in North Carolina. In fact, the first European known to have seen Virginia’s longest valley was John Lederer, a German who, at the behest of the colony’s governor, crested the Blue Ridge Mountains in March of 1669.

While German immigrants aren’t as well-remembered as their Scots-Irish neighbors, they did leave their mark on local culture. Anyone who has seen a v-notch in an Appalachian cabin or listened to a dulcimer can attest to their influence, and now German-Appalachians can add their beloved kriskindlmarkts to the list.

On November 21 and 22, 2014, a lumber mill in Clifton Forge, Virginia will be transformed into a traditional kriskindlmarkt, complete with Christmas wares—everything’s from handmade gifts to holiday decor—and German food, including a special dinner prepared by the chef of Edelweiss German Restaurant in Staunton. The meal will include pork rouladen and beef goulash; red and white cabbage; green beans; spaetzele; and for desert, a choice of Black Forest cake or apple strudel.

If you’re in the area, swing by. While browsing the stalls you can swig a little gluhwein, a traditional mix of red wine and cider with spices, and get some quality time with Father Christmas, who will be decked out in old world garb to entertain the kiddies.

Also, if you have German heritage, we’d love to hear about it. What European traditions have stuck in you family, and do you have any idea what that amazing sausage/burger hybrid I ate in Germany might have been?


  • Mark Mosher

    In Bavaria you probably had some version of the ‘Bratburger’ (!), and it probably included some combination of ingredients unique to the person who made it. It may even have been made with some locally available meat like venison, especially since you had it in Bavaria. You must go back and taste everything on offer until you find it! In my family, since we have both German and Norwegian backgrounds, Christmas includes coffee and apple cake, black tea served in the Frisian manner (cream on top, tea in the middle, rock sugar crystals at the bottom of the cup), Bienenstich Kuchen (Bee Sting Cake!), and paper thin rolled Norwegian pancakes filled with butter and crunchy white sugar. The German items here came west with my family by way of the Shenandoah Valley, where part of my mother’s family lived for a couple of generations before soldiering on over the mountains. Those long-ago ancestors would no doubt be delighted with the idea of a 21st century Kristkindlmarkt in Appalachia!

  • Alexandra Garey

    I’m a German national and live in Kentucky now. That patty you had there could be a “Fleischkuechle” or “Bulette”. I make these often. It’s ground pork patties. I miss the german Christmas markets. The smells and sights and sounds….makes me homesick.

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