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Vancouver Christmas Market great place to find last minute Christmas gifts

Applehaus photo by Jessica Kleibfleisch, slideshow photos by Ewa Chruscicka

If you are searching for a festive activity to enjoy this holiday season, one of Vancouver's "must do" events is the second annual Vancouver Christmas Market.

Referred to in Germany as Christkindlmarkts, these century-old holiday events are renowned for stimulating the senses that remind you of Christmas. Keeping with tradition, this year's exciting market hosts 45 different vendors, each embodying authentic German tastes and goodies.

Last year, the first of its operation, the Vancouver Christmas Market was named one of the Top Spectacular Holiday Markets Around the World by Frommers.

"It's not so much the individual booths, specific vendors, specific food or drinks, it's the overall experience that we really want to get across," says Vancouver Christmas Market president Malte Kluetz. 

"You come here with your friends, with your coworkers, with your family, and you enter through the gate and you're in a different world ... When you're in here, even if you don't eat or drink anything, you can still capture the sights and the smells. I think it's something unique and special."

Festive foods

Although there are aauthentic handmade wood carvings and German beer steins on display, the market is more than just a craft fair. Cultural foodies will appreciate the mixture of delicious German festive foods.

A holiday treat known as German Bratapfel is proving a big hit this season.

Tomas Karrman, a Das Apfelhaus Market vendor, says the dessert is "a traditional German treat dating back from the Middle Ages." Karrman explains that in preparing Bratapfel, you take a "Golden Delicious apple, cut the core out and fill it with some delicious goodies." Das Apfelhaus is offering three varieties of the decorative dessert this year, including the traditional recipe that "comes straight from Germany -- filled with almonds, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon."

Another food vender that should not missed this season is the Stollen-Haus, whose speciality item at the market is, of course, German stollen. Vender Laurie Gagnon describes stollen as "a German sweet bread ... It has yeast in it like a bread, but the dough also has butter and sugar in it, like a cake." Gagnon compares stollon to a German version of Christmas cake: "It has some dried fruit, it has some raisins and candied citrus, then almonds and rum, of course, lots of rum."

Beverages

There is more to the German holiday tradition than food.

Anyone of German heritage would tell you that the spiced wine known as Feuerzangenbowl is a necessity during the holidays. The mixture of red wine, cinnamon, anise and orange is used to embody what vender Sascha Fels describes as "Christmas in a cup." Ideally, it's served hot on a frosty day.

And during your visit to the market this year, take the time to meet the friendly staff at Powers Chocolate, who pride themselves on having the best hot chocolate in town. With their recipe for melted Belgium chocolate (and other secret ingredients), it is difficult to argue with their claim. 

For an intimate cultural experience, Kluetz recommends exploring the market during the weekdays when it is "a less hectic time, (the vendors) will have time to talk to you if you want to learn about all their unique stories."

New improvements 

This year's second season of the Vancouver Christmas Market has brought many changes and improvements. You can expect fewer lineups, as a result of more versatile pathways. And there's a new, "must-see" attraction for the 2011 season: the carousel, which Kluetz says is a big hit with kids, but also with young adults. "It seems to be a very romantic thing to do," he remarks with a chuckle.

The Vancouver Christmas Market prides itself in being a family friendly affair with an abundance of activities for kids to enjoy, particularly in the "Kid's Market", where handmade gifts and decorated gingerbread men can be found.

Finding Santa at the Christmas Market

Santa makes weekday appearances between 2 and 4 p.m., and kid-friendly entertainment can be enjoyed every Tuesday, when it is Kids' Day.

Kluetz says the Vancouver Christmas Market strives to be "the best deal in town ... an affordable experience where you can get great entertainment." Keeping with this promise, admission rates for adults (13+) are $5. Discounts are available weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., when admission is $2. Youth (7-12 years) can gain access for $2, and children under six years of age get in free. There are also a variety of ticket packages, including season passes ($15) and a Christmas Passport ($25) which entitles a season pass and provides Christmas discounts at the Vancouver Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery and more.

Hours and location

The Vancouver Christmas Market will spread Christmas cheer daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on its closing day, Dec. 24. It is a convenient affair, located at The Plaza at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Be sure to bundle up; the market is held completely outdoors. No smoking or pets allowed inside.

For more information, check out the  Vancouver Christmas Market website. 

 

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