A Brand-New Cultural Feature Opens at Carmel Christkindlmarkt

November 2019

In just a few days, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt will officially open for its third season. Last year’s main attraction featured the ever-popular 33-foot-tall German-crafted Glühwein Pyramid, adorned with 3,000 lights, that serves an impressive assortment of Glühwein as well as alcohol-free beverages at the market.

Kulturecke-a German history museum

Brand new to Carmel Christkindlmarkt is the addition of a Kulturecke—a German history museum that will be just south of the Palladium steps in a 12-by-30-foot hut that has been transformed into a cultural center displaying not only German holiday traditions but also showcasing Indiana’s deep-rooted German American heritage and the impact that it’s had on Hoosier commerce and society.

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt has partnered with the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana German Heritage Society for the creation and development of the Kulturecke.

A Brand-New Cultural Feature
A Brand-New Cultural Feature

“We’re telling a story about the folks who helped create what Indianapolis and the state of Indiana is today,” Daniel Gonzales, director of exhibitions research at the Indiana Historical Society, explained. “German people—over a period of several waves of immigration—brought a variety of cultural influences, but they also helped to establish many of the institutions and traditions that we enjoy today. These are things that we should recognize, talk about and educate folks about, and this [Carmel Christkindlmarkt] is a wonderful place to do that. There are tons of people that come through here every year, and they come to enjoy these holiday traditions that maybe they don’t know some of the roots of, so this is an opportunity to give them that broader context.”

A Brand-New Cultural Feature

Sandra Richardson, a member of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt seasonal team, was born and raised near Dresden, Germany. She has offered immense support and input to the Kulturecke script and planning and is an instrumental member of the team that translates for the German woodworkers at the market. She also organizes the children’s activities in the Kinderecke [Kid’s corner].

“The little museum is close to my heart because it will really help show the folks in Carmel and all the visitors how deep German heritage runs in Indiana and throughout America,” Richardson expressed. “My role in the [Kulturecke] exhibit was to narrow down information and to create a little German living room that will fit in the exhibit. We picked wallpapers and curtains, and we’ll have a Christmas tree that will be decorated in authentic and traditional German ornaments.”

William (Bill) Selm – 2019 Hoosier German American of the Year

A founding member of the Indiana German Heritage Society and local historian, William (Bill) Selm was named 2019 Hoosier German American of the Year. Selm shared why IGHS felt it was important to be donors/sponsors of this museum at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt and how much of an impact German Americans have had on the development of the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, though much of this knowledge has begun to be forgotten outside of German American households throughout the last several decades.

“It [German-American impact] is probably one of the best kept secrets in Indiana and in America,” Selm said. “I’ve got an interesting quote from an Indianapolis historian, Jacob Piatt (J.P.) Dunn, from 1910 that I use in my presentations: ‘The Germans have had a larger influence in the development of Indianapolis,’ and you can include Indiana in that, ‘than any other foreign nationality. But the nature and the extent of this influence is not generally understood by American citizens.’ In Dunn’s book, ‘Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes’ (1910), he has a chapter just on the Germans.”

Selm went on to explain how the IGHS is contributing to the history, along with the IHS, to provide accurate timelines, artifacts and images that will be on display at the museum at this year’s Carmel Christkindlmarkt.

The myriad of American holiday traditions that originated from Germanic-speaking countries will be highlighted, along with blurbs about the origins of Christmas trees and other favorite holiday symbols and popular treats.

Christmas tree origin

While many modern Americans know that the Christmas tree originates from Germanic-speaking countries, many may not realize that it is documented as far back as the 1600s, long before Prince Albert and Queen Victoria instituted the Christmas tree in Buckingham Palace in 1848.

“The Christmas tree is documented to the 17th century in some places and more so in the 18th century through literature,” Selm stated. “And it’s none other than the novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” written by the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that helps spread the tradition. It then becomes not just an isolated folk tradition but extends and spreads to the middle class and the aristocracy.”

According to Selm, the Christmas tree was popularized by a queen, made fashionable in the U.S. through publications and by the end of the 19th century, was popular in homes across the country.

Carmel Christkindlmarkt CEO/Market Master Maria Murphy

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt CEO/Market Master Maria Murphy shared more about what people can expect to see in the Kulturecke.

Carmel Christkindlmarkt CEO/Market Master Maria Murphy

“When one enters the exhibit, the first thing you’re going to see is a little bit about the IGHS and the IHS , as they are our sponsors and have been amazing to work with on this project,” Murphy expressed. “The next thing that you’ll see is general information about the impact German immigrants had on Indiana and a display we’ve titled, ‘Ten American Christmas Traditions You Didn’t Know Were German.’”

Murphy explained that in addition to the architectural, cultural and social impacts that German Americans had on the growing city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, they also played a major part in the economic development of the entire region. The museum will highlight these impacts as well as feature a prominent German family—the Vonneguts— whose family would make significant contributions to the city and whose name would become internationally renowned by their descendant, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.—a famous author from Indianapolis.

Join us this holiday season at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt for all of this year’s happenings at the market and ice skating at Ice at Center Green. For a complete schedule of events and detailed market information, visit carmelchristkindlmarkt.com.

Watch Our Interview with CEO/Christkindlmarkt Master, Maria Murphy.