Chickadee loves visiting Belleville’s Main Street at this time of year. There are gingerbread creations to admire, cut-outs to pose in (she’s lucky Ladybug was willing to play along and be the Beast to her Belle!), a giant Christmas countdown calendar, and her favorite, larger-than-life nutcrackers guarding the entrances to the Christkindlmarkt that let her pretend she’s Clara in the Nutcracker!
Every year, we buy two Lego Advent calendars–one for the boys, and one for the big girls. This has worked out well in the past, with everyone getting 12 of the small builds over the course of December. With Chickadee getting older, however, we needed a new solution, so she didn’t feel left out.
Enter a Lego free-with-purchase I received earlier this year. It also contains 24 mini Lego builds, but because the set has fewer pieces, they can’t all be constructed at the same time. The instructions, however, are more detailed, which is great for Chickadee’s somewhat limited Lego skills. She was very excited to start her set today…the first build was a boat, and she was able to put most of it together herself. I’m really grateful Lego solved this problem for us, and without costing me any more money!
Here’s a bonus picture of Chickadee and Ladybug from Tuesday’s walk through Belleville’s Christkindlemarkt:
And a bonus story from yesterday. We were leaving Schnucks, and Chickadee kept stepping in front of the cart Turkey was driving, forcing him to continually stop suddenly to avoid hitting her. I told her she needed to move to the side of the cart, and that she needed some sense, to which she replied: “I have three pennies!” That’s a pretty sophisticated word play for a four-year-old, to go from sense to cents…I think I may be in as much trouble with her as I was with Bunny at that age!
Today is the last day of the first-ever Belleville Christkindlmarkt.
Ever since we moved to this town in 2006, I’ve told Ryan every Christmas that I don’t understand why Belleville didn’t have one. The town square is the perfect location for it, and there’s already a lot of Christmas festivities going on down there. Belleville is also very proud of her German heritage, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me.
This year, to celebrate the city’s 200th birthday, I finally got my wish…a Christkindlmarkt set up on two quadrants of the town square. It was pretty much exactly like I imagined it, right down to the specially designed mugs for Gluhwein!
There were some lovely stalls selling some wonderfully unique gifts:
On the weekends, different groups performed on the square, like the O’Fallon High School madrigals:
They also periodically had demonstrations of different crafts, like this Sole Survivor leather work demonstration:
A pair of reindeer visited (Prancer and Sven), and we even got to see them lock antlers!
And with the reindeer came a beautiful, antique sleigh:
It really was just like I dreamed it. And every time I was down there, (many times over the last few weeks), night or day, it was busy, even in bad weather. I’m hopeful that this wasn’t just the first-ever, but the first-annual Christkindlmarkt on our town square…I’d love for it to be part of our Christmas traditions for many years to come!
We concluded our trip around the world, as well as our two-week Christmas unit, today by learning about Christmas celebrations in Germany. We listened to a German Christmas carol (“Now Sing We, Now Rejoice”), and talked a little bit about the difference between hymns (more formal), and carols (much more laid back, and very well suited to singing while strolling down the street).
We also turned once again to the Lion Storyteller for one more Christmas story–a legend from Germany, but one that, ironically, takes place in England: “The First Christmas Tree.” I had some mixed feelings about this story, because part of it was darker than the other stories we have read, but I felt that the ending was worth it, really driving home the fact that Jesus is the only sacrifice required by God. And, while Turkey and Bunny did seem a little troubled by part of the story, they didn’t seem scared, so I think we struck a good balance.
Following learning about the custom of decorating Christmas trees, we made a really neat Christmas tree that has an almost stained glass effect when you hang it in a window. Turkey and Bunny practiced making the small snips with their scissors that the project requires, but in the end, when working on their actual trees, I made the snips for them. Bunny just doesn’t have the fine motor skills yet to make cuts that small, and while I’m certain Turkey *could* have done it, once he saw me making specific shapes in Bunny’s tree, he wanted me to do his, too. They did have a great time with color selection and gluing, and some trimming (mostly on Turkey’s part–he’s way better with scissors than his sister is!).
They also had a tree decorating coloring sheet in their Christmas Around the World coloring books, and a picture of Kris Kringle in their Holiday Traditions coloring books. We may not “do” Santa here, but I do think it is interesting for them to learn about the way other cultures view the legend of St. Nicholas.
The highlight of the day (other than the tree project), was learning about “Christkindlmarkts.” That is my favorite thing about Christmas in Germany, and I really hope to attend the Nuremberg market someday. I have been to the Chicago Christkindlmarket, and from what I can tell, it’s a pretty good replica. It was also my very favorite Christmas tradition when I lived up in the Chicago area (schnitzel sandwich and hot spiced cider, anyone?), and I can’t wait to take the children there in a few years when they’re older. I’ll confess to actually having had dreams about it, I enjoyed it so well, and miss it so much.
After I explained to them what a Christmas market is, we watched an episode of “The Seasoned Traveler” from PBS. I saw this show a few years ago, and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to find this year that’s it’s available on DVD. I don’t know how I never caught before that the show is geared toward seniors who like to travel (I know, the title should have tipped me off, but I really thought “seasoned” just referred to people who were experienced travelers!), but I don’t think that really matters, and Turkey and Bunny loved seeing the different markets in Germany, as well as other places in Europe. They were quite surprised that those were actual places, especially the Nuremberg market, with a children’s area, complete with carousel and ferris wheel, and I think they really want to go to a Christmas market now!
I wish I could find the Christkindlmarkt video that we watched every year in my German class in high school. I have no idea what it was called, but it was really cool, and told a story about a little German girl, while she went exploring through the market (I think maybe in Cologne?). I know Turkey and Bunny would enjoy that, since it focuses on a child, but try as I might, I can’t even find out what it’s called, much less if I can get a copy anywhere. I think that’s the only thing that would have made our Germany exploration better, though–we had a great time with Christmas around the world, and Christmas school!
Fröhliche Weihnachten and Merry Christmas!