Old World Christmas Market creates holiday magic

Colorful hand-blown glass balls from the Czech Republic will make a Christmas tree beautiful.
Colorful hand-blown glass balls from the Czech Republic will make a Christmas tree beautiful. (photos by Pamela O'Meara/Review)
The Old World Christmas Market at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin will take place Dec. 5 to 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
The Old World Christmas Market at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin will take place Dec. 5 to 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Holiday decorations are featured at the Osthoff’s Christmas buffet.
Buche de Noel was featured at L’ecole de la Maison, the Osthoff Resort’s French cooking school.
Buche de Noel was featured at L’ecole de la Maison, the Osthoff Resort’s French cooking school.
Tatiana Alkata shows off one of her holiday gifts at the Old World Christmas Market.
Tatiana Alkata shows off one of her holiday gifts at the Old World Christmas Market.
St. Nicholas dressed in red velvet greets guests at the entrance to the Old World Christmas Market.
St. Nicholas dressed in red velvet greets guests at the entrance to the Old World Christmas Market.
Nuri Kilinc and his wife display their lovely silk and cashmere scarves from Turkey.
Nuri Kilinc and his wife display their lovely silk and cashmere scarves from Turkey.

As I drove across Wisconsin last December, I was excited at the prospect of a weekend getaway at The Osthoff Resort. Friends who were there the year before had told me it was a wonderful and relaxing time for them right before the hectic Christmas season begins.

I passed by towns, woodlands and farm fields covered in freshly fallen snow on the five-hour drive from St. Paul to Elkhart Lake, and noticed how beautiful it all was.

I thought about all the Christmas gifts I needed to buy and wondered what unique items I might find at the Osthoff’s Old World Christmas Market.

I met up with other friends, and it turned out to be just the right, magical way to begin the holiday season for all of us with the market, beautiful decorations, delicious food, a relaxing spa treatment and everyone excited about the upcoming holiday.

This year the Old World Christmas Market will take place Dec. 5 through Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now in its 17th year, it’s set in a football-sized, heated tent that’s filled with beautiful, mostly handmade gifts from around the world.

When my friends and I were there last year, several reindeer and St. Nicholas dressed in red velvet greeted us at the entrance to a market that featured about 100 booths of Christmas gifts ranging from silk and cashmere scarves, imported sweaters, hand-blown glass tree ornaments, cuckoo clocks and colorful, wooden nutcrackers to chocolate, jewelry and artwork.

I went back several times to admire the brightly colored silk and cashmere scarves Nuri Kilinc and his wife brought from Turkey, and I finally bought almost a dozen for Christmas gifts and for myself, including a stunning white silk shawl with colorful peacocks embroidered on it. I ended up buying gifts for almost everyone on my Christmas list.

Besides international gifts for sale, artist Jim Stahl, who has an art gallery in White Bear Lake, displayed his lovely pastel drawings, and he says he plans to return this year.

Meredith and Curt Stockford from Falcon Heights were selling Watkins products. Curt said, “It’s a wonderful event - best organized one we’ve been to. We’re coming back - we’re permanent.”

New this year will be Swedish food, Polish sausages, knitted items, gemstones and fossils, said general manager Lola Roeh.

Some booths offer samples such as chocolate truffles and hot mulled wine. Last year the food court served a German-style lunch of pumpkin soup, sauerbraten, spaetzle, red cabbage and apple strudel.

Vendors and guests come from all over for the market and other holiday festivities.

Lights, wreaths, Christmas trees

The Osthoff Resort hosts this old world-style Christmas market and many other holiday activities as well. The place is dressed to the hilt with beautifully decorated Christmas trees at every turn in the halls, a 19-foot tree in the Elk Room overlooking Elkhart Lake, pine branches wrapped around stair rails, poinsettias and Christmas wreaths.

The resort’s Aspira Spa is designed to embrace Native American ideas of nature and peace, and the lounge rooms overlook the snow and the holiday lights outside. My friends and I pampered ourselves with massages that left us relaxed and mellow.

For families, there’s a chance to visit with Santa and then have breakfast at a child-sized buffet line. The next day a Christmas brunch with St. Nicholas is followed by a chance to see a reindeer with a big rack and even a camel up close.

There are also Christmas cookie-decorating and ornament-making workshops for kids and a ride on old-fashioned horse-drawn hay wagon with people of all ages sitting on hay bales enjoying the snow and outdoor winter scenes.

Percherons named Bud and Ace pull the wagon and are gentle enough for children to pet. Ice skating takes place in the outdoor courtyard.

A warm, happy feeling

At the Osthoff’s French cooking school, L’ecole de la Maison, we took a class that gave us a chance to prepare a traditional French Christmas meal with French onion soup, scallops, various breads, hash-brown-style potatoes embedded with onions and bacon pieces, beef tenderloin and a dessert of buche de Noel, a rolled chocolate cake filled with chocolate frosting.

Of course, we sat down to eat the festive meal afterwards and took home the recipes.

With light snow falling, holiday lights all over the grounds and inside the buildings, and people feeling the holiday spirit, my friends and I found the resort and Old World Christmas Market in Elkhart Lake to be unlike anything we’d ever experienced in the Upper Midwest.

It gave us a warm, happy feeling, and I found myself humming holiday jingles all the way home.

Pamela O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7818.

 

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