To market, to market

With help from a German Kiwanis club, a Christmas market spreads seasonal cheer.

Photos by Hardy Müeller

Church bells chime, filling the chilled mountain air with a glorious call to worship.  The scents of ginger, cinnamon and pine waft through streets lined with half-timbered houses. A night watchman leans his lantern forward to illuminate your face. He smiles and greets you:  Willkommen bei Erbacher Schlossweihnacht.

In December in Germany, Christmas markets are everywhere. In the north, a fairy tale forest beckons visitors to Lübeck. In the south, Munich boasts a festival that claims 14th-century roots.

Up in the Odenwald mountain range is one of the smallest of German markets: Erbacher Schlossweihnacht. There, tucked in a corner off Städtel Straße is a garage. That’s where you’ll find the Kiwanis Club of Erbach-Odenwald.

A lively young club, proud of its reputation as the “silliest WhatsApp group south of Frankfort,” Erbach Kiwanians capitalize on romantic legends to increase sales of a popular Yuletide sprig. “You know you have to be kissed when you stand below a mistletoe?” Uhrig asks. “Our president had the brilliant idea to put up a sign reading, “Kiwanis mistletoe. Success is guaranteed.”

It worked. Setting off a flurry of kisses, sales helped the club surpass its 22,000-euros fundraising goal for the year.  “How do I say this without sounding too cocky?” Uhrig says. “We raised over 41,000€ (this year).”

The monies were used to support The Eliminate Project, buy toys for a baby playgroup and acquire a wooden car, in which kindergarten students can read books.

“Our market is very small in relation to those in Frankfurt and Heidelberg,” says Erbach-Odenwald Kiwanian Stefan Uhrig. “But for our region, it is a big one.”

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