For 4 days in December, the streets of Kitchener transform into a traditional festival of Christmas that dates back 700 years. Known as Christkindl Market, this event recreates the sights, sounds, smells and spirit of the Christmas festivals found across Germany.

On this page:

  1. History of German Christmas markets
  2. Kitchener’s Christkindl Market
  3. Christkindl
  4. Knecht Ruprecht
  5. Tannenbaum (Christmas tree)
  6. Stollen

History of German Christmas markets

Christmas markets have been part of this festive time for centuries in Germany. They were usually held in front of churches and were looked at as part of a church visit. The oldest recorded market dates to 1310 in Munich, Germany. It was called "Nikolausdult" and was very different from the markets of today. It was an opportunity for farmers to come to town, do some shopping and at the same time, offer their wares.

The reformation of the church in the 16th century brought changes to the Christmas markets. Nikolaus was replaced by the Christkindl (Christchild) as the gift giver and the Nikolaus markets became Christkindl markets. This custom began in the Protestant areas of Bavaria with Nuremberg being the first city to call its market "Christkindlesmarkt." Munich, a Catholic city, changed its "Nikolausdult" to "Christkindlmarkt" in 1805.

For over 600 years German communities have continued the tradition of creating Christmas markets in the central square of their cities and towns – building tiny wooden huts where cooks, artisans and merchants could peddle their wares, and providing a place where people could meet to share songs, food and gifts. We’ve continued that tradition, bringing together more than 80 vendors of local artisan handicraft, decorations, jewellery, food and more. With an emphasis on Old World European theme and flavour, you’re sure to find one-of-a-kind gifts and treasures to sample on-site, or to take home for family and friends.

Kitchener’s Christkindl Market

Christkindl Market was brought to Kitchener's City Hall by founder Tony Bergmeier. It was designed to breathe life into the core of downtown Kitchener. Today, over 35,000 visitors from across North America come to experience our award-winning festival.


The Christkind, Kristkind or "Christ Child" is the traditional Christmas giftbringer in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Christkindl is a diminuitive version of the Christkind. Our Christkindl (pronounced krisst-kindl) is depicted with long curly blond hair and a golden crown.

Knecht Ruprecht

Knecht Ruprecht (or farmhand Ruprecht) has his origin in Germany and is a companion of Saint Nicholas (or Father Christmas). He seems to know if you've been bad or good. Knecht Ruprecht carries with him a bundle of switches and a sack filled with candies (for those who have been good).

Tannenbaum (Christmas tree)

Christmas tree, or Tannenbaum is one of the most popular traditions associated with the Christmas festivity. It is often a spruce or fir tree that is decorated with hundreds of lights during the days before Christmas.

This year, we will have Christmas trees in Carl Zehr Square and on Gaukel Street near Charles Street. Stop by to get a photo and see the lights.


Sing along in German when you hear this well-known tune:

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,

Wie grün sind deine Blätter!

Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,

Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Wie grün sind deine Blätter!


O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

Wie oft hat schon zur Winterszeit

Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!


O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:

Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit

Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!


Stollen is a bread-like cake traditionally made in Germany, usually eaten during the Christmas season as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen. Stollen was created in Dresden in around 1450. Stollen is a fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually dried citrus peel dried fruit, almonds, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon; the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar.