Some words cannot be translated from one language to another. One such word is the German word Gemütlichkeit. Imagine being in a cozy room on a cold winter evening.
You are together with friends, sitting in front of a fire in the fireplace and enjoying a warm drink. That is Gemütlichkeit.
We know the experience, but we don’t have the word.
Gemütlichkeit is what the Mifflinburg Christkindl Market is all about. It is a Christmas market, modeled on those you would find in any good-sized German town.
Part of the center of town is closed to vehicular traffic and the streets are lined with wooden huts where delicious foods and German crafts are sold. Add a living crèche scene, an outdoor stage with various entertainments, a large Christmas pyramid, crowds of people in holiday spirits and there you have Gemütlichkeit pure.
I discovered the Mifflinburg Christkindl Market when I began teaching German at State College Area High School.
A visit to the market was a standard field trip for the middle-school kids who were beginning with German. At high school, they were no less interested in the Gemütlichkeit of the Mifflinburg market.
In fact, students have told me that being able to make this field trip is one of the reasons some young people elect to learn German rather than another foreign language.
We load up a school bus right after school on the Friday of the second weekend in December, which is when the Mifflinburg Christmas market always takes place. Then we drive out state Route 45 through the woods and fields at dusk, as if we were traveling into a fairy-tale land, until we come to the enchanted village of Mifflinburg.
There the kids pile out of the bus and set off to see what they can discover.
Maybe they visit the stand with German cut-paper creations, called Scherenschnitte. Maybe they buy a hot bratwurst or potato pancakes. Maybe they listen to a concert on the Alphorn. Grownups can can try a glass of warm spiced wine known as Glühwein. It’s a great opportunity for people to do some Christmas shopping.
My wife is from Germany and she is very impressed at how authentic Mifflinburg’s Christmas market is. It is all organized by volunteers from the town and supported by local businesses, churches and other organizations.
One is filled with pride and admiration at the evidence of civic involvement. There is no cost for admission, but the Christkindl Market happily accepts donations, which help the nonprofit to meet the expenses of putting on this event.
We never get bored at the market, but after a few hours we need to head back to State College. So it’s back on the bus for our trip home, away from our enchanting Christkindl Market. We’re happy, sleepy and glad that we won’t have to get up too early on Saturday morning.
To experience Gemütlichkeit, try out the Mifflinburg Christkindl Market this year.