Northampton Press

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem, Nov. 15 - Dec. 23, SteelStacks, Bethlehem, has 125 vendors each week, the most in its 20-year history. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem, Nov. 15 - Dec. 23, SteelStacks, Bethlehem, has 125 vendors each week, the most in its 20-year history.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by The Press in Focus

Thanksgiving is in one week and already it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

That's especially true in Bethlehem, the Christmas City.

And it's no more so than at ArtsQuest's SteelStacks on the city's southside.

During the past two decades, Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem has delighted almost one million guests from near and far with its mix of gift ideas, old-world charm and holiday cheer.

This year, the festival celebrates 20 years of holiday magic with a six-week run that features more than 125 vendors each week, the most in its history. The event, Nov. 15 - Dec. 23 (closed Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22), PNC Plaza, SteelStacks, 645 E. First St., Bethlehem, includes more than 200 vendors during its six-week run, with artisans coming from 20 different states.

Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem, recognized as one of the top holiday markets in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, features aisles of handmade works by the nation's finest artisans, the heart-warming sounds of live holiday music and German and Austrian favorites such as bratwurst, German roasted almonds and strudel.

Christkindlmarkt has also expanded its lineup of specialty food vendors, with Pennsylvania-pure maple syrup, locally-produced honey, freshly-baked artisan breads and more among the new items.

New this year is Hidden Pines Farms, offering live Christmas trees, wreaths and swag for sale. Patrons will be able to stroll Hidden Pines' rows of trees, selecting the perfect fir, spruce or pine for their home.

Other highlights include Make Your Own Glass Ornament Sessions, where children and adults work hand-in-hand with talented glass artists to create beautiful, hand-blown ornaments; ice carvers creating sculptures using chainsaws, picks and blowtorches; and Breakfast with St. Nicholas, where children can meet and have their photos taken with the jolly, old man himself.

Germany's Käthe Wohlfarht, one of the most popular attractions at Christkindlmarkt, is also back with an amazing collection of handmade ornaments, nutcrackers and collectibles.

The 2012 holiday celebration features the return of the music and light show on the site's towering blast furnaces, a special holiday menu at the ArtsQuest Center and holiday performances in The Musikfest Café, on the third floor of the ArtsQuest Center, by the von Trapp Children, "American Idol"'s Clay Aiken, The Celtic Tenors, the Second City, the Chapin Family, and David Parker and The Bang Group's "Nut-Cracked."

Every night from Nov. 15-Dec. 31, the public can visit SteelStacks to stroll the walkways draped in holiday lights and 1930s-era decorations reminiscent of the days when Bethlehem first became known as The Christmas City.

At 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., there will be a holiday-themed music and light show on the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, the iconic, eight-story-tall structures from which SteelStacks takes its name.

Guests can enjoy cozy, horse-drawn carriage and wagonette rides through Bethlehem's historic SouthSide Thursday - Sunday, starting Nov. 15, plus ride the free Christmas City Trolley every Thursday - Sunday, starting Nov. 23.

Christkindlmarkt tickets and information: artsquest. org, 610-332-3378.