German club celebrates Weihnachtsmark

The German Club put together the fourth Weihnatchsmark, which is a German Christmas Market, where they provide crafts, snacks and an exposure to the culture. Photo by Martin Phillips

Peyton Rodgers 
Assistant Arts & Features Editor
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The holiday season is something special and unique to every culture. Although many appreciate the holiday and gathering together to celebrate, not everyone chooses to celebrate the same way.
Germany celebrates Christmas through the Weihnachtsmark, which is a German Christmas Market. These markets happen all over Germany in different cities and are a unique touch to the holiday.
The German Club hosted the fourth annual Weihnachtsmark this year in the Grotto in Highsmith Student Union.
Talon Zimmerman, senior German major, stepped up as president of the German Club this academic year.
Zimmerman started to recognize his passion for the German language and culture at the beginning of high school.
“German, my whole career in high school and everything, has always been relatively dull or underfunded. Just not the most exciting thing to be a part of and so I really enjoy having the ability to do what I have always wanted to see happen in the German Club, which was just having culture activities, like some baking sessions,” Zimmerman said.
           German Club is the first student organization Zimmerman seeks to be a part of when starting at a new school.  
“It is a fundraiser event and so a lot of the activities like the bake sale and things like that are for money, but we wanted to provide something that people could do like decorations,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he hopes the market inspires students to take an interest in Germany for its culture.
“I feel like everybody kind of assumes that everyone celebrates Christmas in one way or another, but a Christmas market really is a big deal for the German culture and it is a unique experience,” Zimmerman said. “I just kind of hope it intrigues people enough that they will look into it outside of UNCA.”
The German Club received help with the event through professors, local businesses and catering companies.
Zimmerman said he appreciates the students who have come and helped with decorations for the event.
“We don’t get a lot of funding so it really is a team effort and I could go on and list all the individual things but it’s been a community event from German students to faculty and staff from campus to random people in Asheville that just want to help,” Zimmerman said.
He said he hopes students use the event as a way to get involved in the German Club.
The club meets twice a month for kaffee and kuchen, which means coffee and cake in German. The students gather together and talk in both German and English while enjoying a sweet treat and the company of like-minded individuals.
           Zimmerman has traveled to multiple countries but said he felt the most at home when traveling to Germany.
“Just having traveled there and being a part of my actual family’s culture is just something I’ve always felt excited to explore and kind of re-discover because most of my family doesn’t know anything about it,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman’s great-grandmother from his father’s side is a German immigrant.
“The German culture has been there, but it wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked for it to be so I did my own little journey,” Zimmerman said.
Although Zimmerman said he was told he’d never use the German language, he enjoyed traveling to a country and being able to speak their language with the residents.
“Everyone I met in Germany was nice and it was clean and organized and structured,” Zimmerman said. “Nothing has ever felt so right.”
Meredith Avison, sophomore atmospheric science student, stepped up in the German Club to help them get back on their feet.
She has been involved in the process of putting together the Weihnachtsmarkt and said she is interested to see how people will enjoy it.
“I’m looking forward to just having people come and seeing how that’ll be like and hopefully having fun and listening to music and eating and buying things for the charity,” Avsion said.
Avison said she hopes the Weihnachtsmarkt will intrigue people to start attending German Club meetings.
“It’s sort of a relaxing time in a really stressful time and enjoying something to eat you can make something because it’s kind of a crazy time for us,” Avison said.
Avison resided in Berlin, Germany, for two years as a child.
“I lived there when I was little so there’s a little bit of nostalgia for me about some things. People are a lot less intense there in some ways,” Avison said. “It’s a different atmosphere, different history between the two countries but the Christmas market is really nice there.”
Her father is currently still a resident in Germany so she has traveled to the country multiple times.
After experiencing the German Christmas market first hand, she has an idea of what she expects and hopes for the event.
“They’re always very festive and lit up kind of a warm atmosphere with warm drinks in the cold,” Avison said. “It’s going to be a German Christmas market with an NC flare definitely, but I think it’ll be fun.”
John Crutchfield, lecturer of German at UNCA, brought a friend, Thomas Bartch, from Berlin, Germany, to the German Christmas market this year.
Bartch is a psychiatrist in Berlin and said he enjoys being able to find the Weihnachtsmark in North Carolina.
“I very much appreciate that I can find a German custom like Weihnachtsmark just in the middle of North Carolina and I think people are adopting or interested in different cultural customs,” Bartch said. “I wasn’t expecting this and it was very nice to see.”
Bartch explained everyone enjoys the frosty air so the Christmas market is never held inside.
“Usually you walk during the day with little kids or in the evening, they have hot cider, and gluhwein, which is hot spicy red wine and then you just gather with your friends, freezing together, shivering together, but it’s always set in the central market,” Bartch said.
Since Berlin in a large city, Bartch said they often have multiple Weihnachtsmark’s in different settings.
“They stage some Christmas plays for kids, others have musicians that play live music, Christmas music, so it’s a real nice event,” Bartch said.
Crutchfield has experienced a few Weihnachtsmarkts. He said sometimes they can be large with lots of tourists and considers it to be claustrophobic but, prefers the markets that are less crowded and more calm for him and his family.
“I guess as a father I have to think about that kind of thing too,” Crutchfield said.
Crutchfield appreciates the cultural exposure the German Club has brought to UNCA by putting together this event.
“We’re at a liberal arts college and university so it does fit into the mission of such institution to broaden the horizons culturally and intellectually of the students,” Crutchfield said. “Something like this as modest as it is and looks not really like an actual German Weihnachtsmark, it still is enough of a taste that students might be curious.”
Bartch explains the significance of the Christmas holiday in the German culture.
“This is a very intimate affair to celebrate aside from Christmas. If you are invited to a Christmas party at home , that is a very intimate affair for Germans, for example. If you are invited, they appreciate your interest and it is an offer you should never reject”
Bartch has only permanently resided in Germany, but Crutchfield has resided in both Germany and the U.S.
Crutchfield has a German wife and said they sometimes consider moving to Germany with their children.
“My family is bilingual so we are given the opportunity to go either place,” Crutchfield said.
Crutchfield studied abroad in Germany and was an exchange professor in Germany for one year and often travels back during the summer for visits.
“I feel at home in Germany in many ways,” Crutchfield said. “There are things about the German culture that will always be strange to me, but thanks to the friendships I have been blessed with over the years, such as Thomas and another mutual friend who is also a doctor, I have a deep social connection to Germany now.”