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Frank Shriver, Caroline Shriver and Marion Riley are at a table with a children's activity at a previous Christkindlmarkt at Union Mills Homestead.
Frank Shriver, Caroline Shriver and Marion Riley are at a table with a children's activity at a previous Christkindlmarkt at Union Mills Homestead. (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

Christkindlmarkts have been part of German history since the mid-1500s. These holiday markets offer a festive place for villagers to meet and chat, catch up, and laugh together — and of course to shop for homemade Christmas ornaments, decorations, greens and gifts, too.

Food and beverages are served, music is played, and the spirit of Christmas is ignited, bringing light and laughter to what can be a cold and dark season.

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Celebrating the German heritage of its founders, Union Mills Homestead will hold its fifth annual Christkindlmarkt on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can catch the spirit of Christmas, shop for fresh Christmas wreaths and greens, and taste and share traditional German fare while listening to music and experiencing the feel of Christmases past.

In a past interview, Union Mills Homestead Board of Directors’ president, Sam Riley, shared how this historic homestead and industrial park was built in 1797 by the Shriver family, who owned the property for six generations.

“The Shrivers, who founded Union Mills, were grandsons of German immigrants, and were leaders in the German-speaking community in Piedmont Maryland,” Riley said. “Our Christkindlmarkt event is held in recognition of the significant German heritage of our site and the surrounding community.”

In fact, research shows that much of Carroll County was settled by Pennsylvania Germans who migrated here from Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, making Christkindlmarkt a celebration of our county’s history.

Staff member Malory Kehne said visitors can Christmas shop, listen to music, walk the historic grounds, and take time to observe blacksmith Reb Staup and woodworker Don Lindsey craft Christmassy things the old-fashioned way.

“We have about 15 vendors, and they will be selling pottery, jewelry, Civil War items, lots of handmade crafts and more,” Kehne said. “Stone House [Cakery and Café] will also be there, in their food truck, selling cupcakes. Our gift shop will be open as well and in there you will find plenty of Christmas gifts, including ornaments, spiced mug mats, flour sack towels and more.”

Step inside the historic Shriver Homestead to experience the sights and scents of Christmas past. Inside, docents will be stringing popcorn and making clove oranges. In the 1800s, oranges were stuffed with cloves, rolled in cinnamon and dried. A ribbon was added to hang them on the Christmas tree, filling the house with holiday spice. Pine cones, holly, magnolia and other native plants contribute to the sight and scent of holidays past.

Three full rooms will be open for a free tour, decorated as they would have been in the 1800s. Music will fill the house, too, compliments of hammered dulcimer player Donna Nomick.

The mill will also be open for tours. This is a place where corn meal is still ground the old-fashioned way. Stop for a photo beside the water wheel. You’ll find fresh Christmas wreaths and greens sold there.

Site manager Melinda Setren said poinsettias, Christmas cactus and herb gardens will also be available to purchase in the gift shop. Food and drinks may be purchased from Kountry Kafe, inside the Tannery.

According to Kehne, visitors will find a variety of German fare, including bratwurst, hot dogs, potato with bacon soup, apple strudels and hot apple cider. She also spoke of the music and the children’s activities available on the porch of the house.

Setren and Jane Sewell, Union Mills Homestead executive director, were both enthusiastic about the music.

“New this year will be the Carroll County Senior Singers performing at noon and the Old Line Statesmen at 2 p.m., both in the front of the Tannery,” Setren said.

Sewell, who has worked this event since its inception, said the music added this year makes the occasion even better than before.

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“This really is a fun family Christmassy event with great German-style food, and some wonderful vendors, and our gift shop is open with wonderful holiday gifts, too,” she said. “It’s a celebration of the Shriver family’s German heritage. The music is new this year, and we are excited about that. The Old Line Statesmen are great. People really love listening to them. They’re planning to do some holiday songs along with some standards.”

When asked to nail down a favorite thing about this cultural celebration of the season, Setren went with the overall feel.

“My favorite thing about this event is that it is fun and festive,” she said. “It’s a happy place and a great way to start the holiday season.”

Kehne agreed.

“We’d love to have the community come out and support Union Mills Homestead by attending our annual Christkindlmarkt event,” she said. “Last year, the weather forced us to cancel, so we are really looking forward to everyone coming out this year.”

For more information about Christkindlmarkt call the Homestead at 410-848-2288 or visit www.unionmills.org.

Lois Szymanski covers Finksburg, Gamber, Pleasant Valley, Reese, Sandymount, Silver Run, Smallwood, Union Mills and Westminster. Reach her at 443-293-7811 or LoisSzymanski@hotmail.com.

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