NEWINGTON - Maybe it was the intoxicating scent of Gebrannte Mandeln, sugar-coated almonds caramelizing in the kitchen. Or the Glühwein, spiced with cinnamon and clove, brewing behind the bar. Over 1,500 people were drawn to the Hartford Sängerbund over the weekend for Christkindlmarkt.
German Christmas carols and pine-tinted light filled the building as the Christkin opened up the festival each morning. Families gathered around in perfect silence to hear the child sing and watch as she lit the tree.
Jewelry, dried flowers, sweets and crafts were for sale by 15 different vendors, who set up inside the hall. Visitors daintily fingered handcrafted nutcrackers as if they came from a glass blower and not a forest. These and other woodenware were sold by a small group of club members who have fostered a special relationship with a family in Seiffen, Germany.
“This family has been doing this 100 years,” Mona Fisher explained.
She travels to this town of 3,000 people, where nutcrackers are said to have first originated, to the home and workshop of Ringo Mueller.
“We went over there for the first time around 1990 and we just fell in love with this stuff. Each family makes something different.”
The items are imported for Christkindlmarkt, along with pewter from Bavaria.
The candied nuts, spiced wine and potato pancakes, however, are made right in Newington.
The first Christmas market on record was held in 1434 in Germany. The event has been replicated ever since by German communities like the Sängerbund.
The club celebrates its 160th anniversary next year. It was founded in Hartford and became a second home to German immigrants who missed the old country.
One of them was the grandfather of Ron Madeia and Linda Frazon, whose family continues to lead the organization to this day.
“It will be four generations,” Frazon said. “My father found the property to build this clubhouse in Newington. That’s why it’s so important to us. The struggles have been long but we’re here and still trying to keep things going despite declining membership.”
Linda and Lance Frazon’s daughters Jenny and Shaylynn, 23 and 19 years old, play a crucial role in that legacy. Both girls helped run the Christkindl-markt and are recruiting others to the club.
“We’re trying to get more young people involved so we can protect our traditions and share what the German culture has to offer,” Jenny said.
As part of the coming year’s anniversary celebration she is researching the original membership and club history.
“This is like our second home,” Jenny added. “We were brought up coming here. “Without the Christkindlmarkt Christmas can’t come soon enough.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.