Families organize traditional German Weihnachtsmarkt

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Residents of Tredyffrin Township do not need to go all the way to Germany to experience a traditional “Weihnachtsmarkt,” or Christmas market.

To spread holiday cheer, the families of several ’Stoga students organized a German Christmas market at Willowbrook farm in Malvern on Dec. 7. Several hundred visitors come to the annual Weihnachstmarkt to socialize and experience German culture. With decorative lights hanging throughout the farmhouse and traditional German delicacies for sale, including Lebkuchen, Glühwein and Bratwurst, the event captured the magical atmosphere of the holiday season.

Parent Helene Malarkey has organized the event every year since she started it five years ago. She explained that her original Christmas market had been spearheaded by a group of three women, including herself, all born and raised in Germany. They knew someone who had organized a Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany and were inspired to set up one of their own in Pennsylvania.

“And (we) thought, this is something we should do here as well, because this time of year, we miss certain things from home, especially around the holidays. It was a great idea, and now we’ve been doing it since,” Malarkey said.

She hosted the first market at her house, attracting about 100 visitors. Over the years, the attendance has grown immensely. The market, originally held in her backyard, had to be moved to the farm to accommodate everyone.

Sophomore Matthew Malarkey, Helene Malarkey’s son, has witnessed the growth of the event, attending the market with friends and helping with traffic control in past years. Matthew Malarkey explained that with so many people going, it is easy to get to know others and have fun.

“You get to see a lot of people and have conversations with people that a lot of times you wouldn’t, and I think it’s just a good experience overall, whether you’re a student or not,” Matthew Malarkey said.

Senior Nicolaas Weggelaar agreed that the Weihnachtsmarkt is a fun event. His family was also involved in organizing the event, so he passed out invitations and spread the word. He helped set it up in the morning, putting up tables and decorating, and was enthusiastic about the idea, since the money earned is donated to MainLineFreunde, an organization that helps people practice and explore the German language and culture. 

“It’s a great cause and, you know, (you’re) having fun and spending time with family there. It gets that Christmas vibe going in starting the new season,” Weggelaar said.

The unique atmosphere drew many students throughout the day, including several of the school’s Key Club members. Sophomore Clara Steege decided to volunteer by tending the fire. She, like Weggelaar, found it a great experience, as she learned more about German culture while spending time with friends.

“It’s based on an opportunity to engage with the community and to experience some of the events that go on in the area,” Steege said.

Though Christmas markets in Germany are usually bigger, Helene Malarkey sees the event at Willowbrook Farm as a nice way to experience the German tradition with authentic German food and local vendors, while bringing the community together for holiday festivities.