Sunday, December 18, 2016

Käthe Wohlfahrt, Santa and Commerce

The Inner Harbor set-up promises the "magic of an authentic German Christmas market right here in Baltimore!" The most authentic about this market may be the German sponsors, chiefly the Käthe Wohlfahrt
Käthe Wohlfahrt website image: "Authentic German Christmas Market"
tree ornament empire that sells hand carved wood craft for prices that would be at home in a high end jewelry store. The Wohlfahrt company, German airline Condor and others sponsor holiday markets in many cities in the US.
Beer and Santa in Baltimore (Photo: Baltimore market website)

The Baltimore corporate market charges on weekends $3 just to get in, like an entry fee to go into a mall. Inside, vendors of all kinds of things that have little or nothing to do with the holidays aggressively hawk their wares to the unsuspecting folks that came for the authentic market magic to get them into the holiday spirit.

As I have written before, the concept of German Weihnachtsmarkt should be quite doable in the US and could be an asset to any wintery town, especially one as steeped into history and German influences as Baltimore.

But for that to work it needs to be done in a less mercantile manner, after all this is supposed to have a relation to Christmas. There isn't a German holiday market that charges a fee to just walk through and there isn't one where Santa is placed right next to a beer-garden in which frivolous music is played so loudly that Santa can't hear the kids wishes.
authentic German Christmas market?
(Photo: Baltimore market website)

That whole Santa thing is what really gets parents of young children: Baltimore had something going when Santa resided in the glass palace at Harbor Place, something that had become a tradition. A non-commercial setting where parents could go and have their kids see Santa without a mall and without having to pay eight bucks and without being accosted by vendors.

Why did the Waterfront Partnership do away with Santa at HarborPlace? Now Santa has to sit in Wohlfahrt tent  promoted by German corporations that could care less about the holiday spirit or Baltimore.
Liebe Baltimore? (Photo: Nina Philipsen)

Let's do a holiday market which is local and authentically Baltimore! That this can be done tastefully and even involve beer was demonstrated last week on a small scale at the crafts fair inside the Peabody Heights Library on 30th Street.

Since we have these grand plans for the Lexington Market with a new park in the space where the historic market currently stands I suggest that this should be the place for Baltimore's very own winter market. And since it may take some time before that space is ready, next year the idea could be tested on the current parking lot just south of the market.
Meanwhile, free Santa from the Wohlfahrt tent and make him accessible again to everybody. The German word Wohlfahrt means welfare in English.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

In light of the terrible mayhem in Berlin the above considerations about Christmas markets are, of course trivial. 
the outdoor booths are the most authentic Christmas market elements (photo: Nina Philipsen)