Magical! Faith inspired! These words come to mind when I think of my first ever hosted visit to the Ferndinand Christkindlmarkt!
Held at the lawn of the Monastery Immaculate Conception, locals call this, Castle on the Hill. It is easy to see where this term comes in. The Monastery can be seen from quite a distance with the distinctive, recently-restored Romanesque dome, that stands an amazing 87 feet from the floor and 32 and a half feet in diameter. It is a surprising site in this small Indiana town.
Kevin Manley, Executive Director Dubois County Visitors Center & Tourism Commission, said, “Ferdinand is a town of 2,600 people.”
He added the Monastery is one of 19 churches over 100 years old and these churches comprise the Dubois County Trail of Faith. “We are a very faith based County,” Kevin Manley added.
On Christkindlmarkt Eve the magic begins.
The sun had set as we parked and wound our way up Monastery Hill. We were just two among a large crowd of onlookers. When we reached the top, children were moving towards the monastery with lighted lanterns. It was beautiful seeing the lights wending up the hill!
Once there, the children’s lanterns were placed next to pillars on the porch of the Monastery. We watched as the Christmas Angel appeared at the Gothic doors of the monastery crypt. In her high clear voice, she welcomed in the Christkindlmarkt. Trumpeters overhead heralded the opening ceremonies.
We listened with rapt attention as the Sisters of the Benedict Bell Choir performed. I admit in the middle of the performance to being distracted when I spied an active young toddler that wanted in on the action and said, “Hi” a couple of times. Who could resist?
The Christmas Angel
The Christmas Angel is also called Christkindl. She opens the Christkindlmarkt as part of a 500 year tradition. The tradition is carried over from Nuremberg, Germany’s Christkindlmarkts., and on November 17th Ferdinand opened the 21st year Christkindlmarkt.
Hillary Cremeens is the beautiful Christmas Angel. “It is worth the trip for something this awesome,” Hillary said about the wonderous Christkindlmarkt Eve experience.
I caught up with her on Saturday at the Market. She was out shopping with her young son Oliver.
“This is the 7th year I have been the Christmas Angel. I have been doing it since 2012.” The perfect Angel, Hillary said she sings on the side and that she majored in music in Nashville.
History of the market
The market is a German tradition where vendors sell wares and gifts in the festival-style setting of Christkindlmarkt. Dubois County website explains, “During the weeks of Advent, toy makers, basket weavers, wood carvers, candle makers and other artisans set up booths in front of the local church, where browsers make their selections. This custom began in the 14th century and continues today in the charming “Bavarian” village of Ferdinand, Indiana.”
Advent is the four weeks before Christmas. During the market artisans set up like in years past. There are six market sites around town. The market includes many homemade wares and German food. This authentic tradition was recently voted as one of the Top 100 Events in the Nation by the American Bus Association.
On a visit to the Dubois County Museum we learned how the area has such a large German population. Board member Kathy Buchanan explained that German Priest Father Kundek invited them to come to the area.”
He sent letters and advisements to Germany that brought many to the area. Thus a German population settled in Dubois County and the Christkindlmarkt tradition was brought with the immigrants as well!
The German Christkindlmarkt Eve Dinner!
At the end of the celebration on, a gentleman dressed as a Nut Cracker came and announced that he would lead the group dining that evening to St. Gertrude’s Hall. There a German Buffett was prepared. We followed the soldier to the hall. There we were directed to our seat.
Soon we sampled a wonderful German meal that was catered by the famous Schnitzelbank Restaurant &Catering located in nearby Jasper, Indiana. Excited to be seated with members of the Dubois County Visitors Center & Tourism Commission I enjoyed great conversation and food! It was wonderful to meet Amanda Tempel, who set up my wonderful trip, Whitney Hall, Kevin Manley and their family members.
On our way out, we ducked inside to see the beautiful cathedral. It is awe inspiring!
The history of the site is fascinating. The Monastery was founded in 1867. Home to one of the nation’s largest communities of Benedictine women we heard that there are currently 139 nuns.
I had toured this before long ago and loved the story and beauty. Whitney Hall pointed out that throughout the church, 89 angels are present, 16 of which are depicted on the stained glass windows surrounding the dome. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been designated an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures. Guided tours are offered on Tuesday – Friday 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm, and Saturday & Sunday 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm. To schedule a group tour please call 800.968.4578.
Christkindlmarkt Eve is the perfect segue into the Holiday Season. Always held the 3rd weekend in November, make plans now to attend next year’s event!