By Jane Ammeson and Travel Indiana Staff
In Ferdinand, the castle-like Monastery Immaculate Conception sits atop a hill in the wooded and softly rolling hills of Dubois County. The Sisters of Benedict founded their monastery back in the 1860s and though they have embraced technology and modernity, they also still harken back to traditions too. In their bakery, this heritage is apparent in the cookies they make and sell.
At holiday time, the demand for their delicious anise flavored springerle (the sisters created almerles using the same recipe but substituting almond oil for those who don’tlike licorice) is intense and they sell almost 3,000 during their peak months. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider this—the cookies are handmade using presses brought by a sister from Germany more than a century ago.
Springerles will also be available at the 20th annual Ferdinand’s Christkindlmarkt, based on the Christkindlmarkts which first started in 14th century Bavaria. It was recently voted one of the Top 100 Events in the Nation by the American Bus Association and is held annually on the third full weekend in November. Christkindlmarkt Eve begins with the arrival of the Christkindl, or Christmas Angel, who appears at the Gothic-style doors of the Monastery’s 87–foot–high domed church. As she sings, children light her way, monks chant, and the Sisters of St. Benedict Bell Choir perform. The market is a cornucopia of authentic Bavarian edibles and holiday goods as well as high quality antiques, pottery, jewelry, wooden toys and much more.
Other Dubois County’s Olde World Christmas events include the Huntingburg Stroll (November 9-12) in the city’s historic downtown featuring carriage rides, carolers, photos with Santa, a lantern launch and cookie walk; and O’Tannenbaum Days, a three-day celebration (December 1- 3), centered around the historic courthouse in downtown Jasper. Special highlights include a 30-foot Christmas tree aglow with glittering lights, horse-drawn carriage rides through the Victorian-era downtown, carolers and visits with Santa. Many of the stores host free artisan demonstrations of wood-carving, pottery, quilting and butter-churning.
Still hankering for more German holiday experiences? Check out Holidays Under the Spires in Oldenburg, a very German village in southeast Indiana where the strasses (that’s streets to you and me) are lined with early to mid 19th- century buildings, several restaurants dating back a century or so, and a population boasting almost 90% Germanic ancestry. Held this year on December 2, try locally made sauerkraut balls, shop at the Oldenburg Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair, enjoy an old-fashioned Cookie Walk and grab a cup of coffee and freshly made pastries and breads at Kessing Haus Café.
On November 22, the annual Holiday Fest’s Night of Lights kicks off the celebration with the countdown to illuminate Santa and His Reindeer, the Merry Christmas Wreath, the Northern Lights, and more in the city’s downtown. Also, that evening is the Festival of the Trees, a wow display of over 50 decorated trees and the Festival of Gingerbread—a fantasia of some 100 gingerbread creations sculpted by a wide range of artists from school age children to prominent pastry chefs. Visit Santa at his workshop, listen to the downtown churches ring their bells, and watch the sky light up with fireworks.
“Our Holly Trolley Shopping is on November 25—National Shop Small Saturday,” says Frank Howard, Director of Marketing, Environmental & Business Services at Downtown Fort Wayne. The free trolley transports passengers to several city shopping areas including downtown Fort Wayne, West Main Shops, and the Wells Street Corridor as well as stops at unique shopping venues along the way.
“It’s a magical time of year and although details may change year-to-year you can always expect something fantastic in downtown Fort Wayne for the holidays,” says Howard.
In Hancock County you’ll find numerous special holiday events throughout the season, including those with parades, vendors, food, tree lighting, live music, Santa arrivals, old-fashioned carriage rides, and more. There’s the Greenfield Christmas Festival, Fortville Winter Festival, New Palestine Christmas Walk, and the Shirley Downtown Christmas Walk. Also in Greenfield, you can take in holiday movies at the Ricks Theatre, and tour the James Whitcomb Riley boyhood home. Be sure and visit the Octagon House in Shirley, which will be adorned with decorated Christmas trees.
On Saturday, December 2, Chesterton’s European Market, located in this pretty little town nestled among the dunes in northern Indiana, is hosting their outdoor Mistletoe Market with many of the favorite merchants, artists, and chefs who also sell their wares when the market is open during the summer. Shoppers can enjoy the holiday music while buying holiday gifts.
If covered bridges are your thing, then head over to the Parke County Covered Bridge Christmas. Held on December 2-4, there are a plethora of happenings in Parke County, known as the “covered bridge capitol of the world.” The Covered Bridge Art Association offers tours of homes decorated for the holidays. In downtown Rockville, with its historic courthouse square, there are visits with Santa. In the many villages and towns, connected by country roads and covered bridges, communities are decorated for the holidays and some offer shopping, food, arts and crafts. Bridgeton’s Country Christmas, held in the Bridgeton National Historic District with its old grist mill and covered bridge (said to be the most photographed bridge in the Midwest), is free. Open the last full weekend in November and the first weekend in December, children get to visit Santa in an 1822 cabin. For stocking stuffers, consider buying Bridgeton Mill’s freshly ground flour and cornmeal.
In Kokomo, the beautiful historic Seiberling Mansion will be dressed in magnificent holiday splendor during “Christmas at the Seiberling” November 25 through December 30. Dozens of Christmas trees, wreaths, and thousands of holiday lights will fill the mansion during this annual event. Opening night lighting ceremony includes live entertainment, visits with Santa, carriage rides, and tours.
Culver, located in Marshall County, celebrates the season November 10-12 with Christmas in Culver & Craft Bazaar, where you can enjoy special holiday treats while you shop for that perfect gift. On December 1, enjoy their Holiday Hop and Christmas Tree Lighting while browsing in this quaint lakeside town.
Along with other holiday events and local shopping opportunities, the city of Noblesville will once again feature their annual display of holiday ice sculptures. The charming downtown square will glow with pre-carved ice sculptures illuminating downtown beginning November 25 at 6 p.m. Ice carving demonstrations will be performed by the Indiana Ice Studio and the annual tree lighting ceremony will be at approximately 8 p.m. The ice sculptures stay on display for as long as weather allows.
The Deck the Halls Artisan Trail in Richmond/Wayne County features local artisan studios and retail galleries with one-of-a-kind wares perfect for gift giving, December 1-3. Holiday events and entertainment can also be found along the trail. The Old National Road Welcome Center, with a gift shop filled with locally-made products, will also be having their Christmas open house during this event.
At the Red Barn at Sycamore Farm in Terre Haute, you’ll find Mack’s New Market, and Mack’s Merry Market, a pop-up shop featuring vintage, antique, and artisan wares. Both shops are named after the former owner of Sycamore Farm, J. Mack Wilson, who ran an antiques shop filled with the unexpected. Mack would be pleased that his barn again becomes a trove for treasures, if only twice a year! Vendors are a thoughtfully selected mix of curators and artisans bringing with them an array of antiques, vintage, retro, mid- century, and repurposed, as well as jewelry, pottery, signs, soaps, woolens, upscale and boutique clothing, baby handmade, art, and a selection of home goods and holiday wares. The Market is open November 10 from 5-8 p.m., and November 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chandelier Country Christmas Barn Market is an artsy marketplace show nestled in the beautiful southern Indiana countryside on a real working farm. A place where you’ll find barns full of unique handmade one-of-a-kind items, painted furniture, antiques, handmade jewelry, art, upcycled lighting and metal arts. Live music both Friday and Saturday with lots of food trucks, and an open fire pit to warm you. Event takes place November 10 and 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Early Bird shopping is available 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. with pre-paid tickets you can purchase online.
Downtown Indianapolis offers loads of holiday events, many of which have become longstanding holiday traditions. Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg, taking place this year from November 18 through January 15, features nine working model trains that travel along
1,200 feet of track. The trains wind past local Indianapolis treasures like Monument Circle, Union Station, and more, then head “out west” through National Parks and other sites like the Las Vegas Strip and the Grand Canyon. At the Indiana Historical Society, the annual Festival of Trees features 72 decorated 12-foot trees, each representing a unique theme by local businesses and celebrates the holiday season like never seen before. Visitors can participate in daily family-friendly events, make arts and crafts, enjoy local musical groups every Tuesday, and plan a visit from Santa himself. Enjoy the nighttime tree glow by visiting on Tuesdays until 9 p.m. between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The Festival takes place November 16 through January 6.