Christkindlmarkt at the Athenaeum to highlight Kwanzaa 

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The Atheneum will host its second annual Christkindlmarkt outside in the Rathskeller Biergarten each weekend until Dec. 17. (Photos/Chloe McGowan)
The Atheneum will host its second annual Christkindlmarkt outside in the Rathskeller Biergarten each weekend until Dec. 17. (Photos/Chloe McGowan)

The second annual Christkindlmarkt at the Athenaeum will look a little different this year — a little more inclusive, that is.

Taking place each weekend until Dec. 16, guests can stop by the Athenaeum for a drink and German food, holiday wares and local handicrafts. Featuring 12 local food and drink vendors, business booths and live entertainment, the Christkindlmarkt at the Athenaeum aims to provide a family-friendly take on traditional German winter markets, Craig Mince, CEO of The Athenaeum, told the Recorder. 

“Christmas — this time of year — is very important from a celebration standpoint,” Mince said. “The Athenaeum, until I started, really didn’t do much around the holidays, and trying to re-instill community, and family, and gathering, this really seemed to be a really good step in the right direction and creat[ing] a community space, if you will.”

The unmistakable 125-year-old building in the heart of Massachusetts Avenue’s Arts District is home to the YMCA and the Basile Theatre, hosting family-friendly and community-centered events almost year-round. Spanning the outdoor Rathskeller Biergarten, the second annual Christkindlmarkt aims to bring the community together through food, music and fellowship.

“Whereas for the holiday centered around food, beverage and community, so all of our vendors — we have 12 — are all local, selling local goods,” Mince said. “One of the big impacts here is that all the money stays in the local economy. A lot of the items that we sell are inspired by traditional German-style items that you may see at a traditional Christkindlmarkt but, again, very much local.”

The Christkindlmarkt will feature local vendors with food, beverages and homemade goods for guests to shop from as they enjoy live entertainment from local artists and storytellers. (Photo/Chloe McGowan

Although The Athenaeum Foundation hosted its first Christkindlmarkt last year, Mince said they decided to expand the market’s reach this year to make things even more fun and inclusive for the community by adding traditions from other winter holidays, such as Krampusnacht, Sankt Nikolaus Fest, Hanukkah, Las Posadas and Kwanzaa.

“I don’t want this to be just a Christmas market; I want it to be a celebration of all holidays,” Mince said. “There’s so many Winter Solstice holidays that all kind of circle bringing light to the darkness, and I think this is a good opportunity to tell everybody’s story as it pertains to the holidays.”

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday created by Maulana Karenga, a professor teaching in California during the Civil Rights Movement. The holiday’s goal is to create a way for African Americans to “pay tribute to from whence they come, though we don’t know exactly what village or country in Africa our ancestors derived from,” Portia Scholar Jackson, local storytelling artist told the Recorder.

Kwanzaa is observed formally from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, celebrating a different principle each day. The Christkindlmarkt’s Kwanzaa celebration takes place during its last weekend, Dec. 15-17, and will feature live performances, art and interactive activities, with visual artist Gary Gee, musical artist Anthony Artis and Jackson.

Jackson, who is also a storyteller for Arts for Learning of Indiana, said the artist workshop at the Christkindlmarkt aims to cover three genres of art to represent the sixth day of Kwanzaa, which emphasizes Kuumba, or creativity.

“Participants will be able to create Kwanzaa posters to adorn their homes,” Jackson said. “They will learn some African rhythms with the instruments that are tied to the understanding of the Kwanzaa celebration, which means the first fruits of the harvest; when people will come together and [are] working (sic) together.”

Although Kwanzaa has been around for 57 years, Jackson said it has been wonderful to see more people embracing and celebrating the holiday in the last decade as that is how African Americans have held onto traditions and cultural norms — by celebrating in a positive way.

“I think in terms of understanding the richness of why Kwanzaa was created, as an African American celebration,” Jackson said. “Of course, all African American families don’t celebrate Kwanzaa, but then you don’t have to be African American to embrace the principles of Kwanzaa to live by — because who doesn’t want to build a better self, strengthen family to build a better community? Who doesn’t want that?”

The Athenaeum’s Christkindlmarkt takes place every weekend until Dec. 17 at 401 E Michigan St. The event is free to attend. For more information about vendors, performers, hours and parking, visit athenaeumindy.org/event-guide/christkindlmarkt.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or chloegm@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.