With the 2020 Carmel Christkindlmarkt and other favorite local holiday traditions among the many casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Carmel’s event planning team has been hard at work to provide other ways to celebrate the season.
“We’re not telling you to cancel the holidays, we’re just saying to plan them a little differently,” said Nancy Heck, Carmel’s director of community relations and economic development. “Have your holidays, just have them a little differently. We’re used to doing things differently this year.”
Instead of organizing festivals, markets and events that encourage large crowds, the city is spreading holiday cheer throughout Carmel in a variety of new ways that can be enjoyed at various times and places to promote physical distancing.
The following is an overview of Holidays in Carmel. Learn more at HolidaysinCarmel.com.
Light Up the City
Instead of hosting the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Carter Green, the city will livestream a virtual ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21.
The event will include comments from Mayor Jim Brainard, performances by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra and Actors Theatre of Indiana, and a coordinated lighting of buildings throughout the city to be captured on drone footage.
The ceremony will be available to view online throughout the holiday season.
Shop Small Saturday
After originally planning to encourage shoppers to visit local businesses in person for Shop Small Saturday, on Nov. 18 the city decided to alter the event to promote online shopping instead.
The annual event encourages residents to support locally owned shops and restaurants. This year, the city will promote online specials offered by Carmel’s local retailers or those that can be delivered or picked up curbside.
Stores will still be open for in-person shopping, but mask and social distancing requirements are in effect.
The Monon Greenway in central Carmel will glow and sparkle like never before with holiday decorations this month and in December.
“From Carter Green to Main Street will be full of lighted, spectacular elements and designs,” Heck said. “I have to thank the street department for helping us build some of the things you will see there.”
Tunnels of lights will be placed along the Monon between the Palladium and Hotel Carmichael, behind the Monon Square shopping center and just south of Main Street. Other visual elements include decorated trees, an archway and igloos for small groups to gather.
Most holiday elements along the Monon will be visible from the road, too.
“There are things you can see from your car if the weather is too cold for your kids or you have someone who can’t walk,” Heck said.
Carmel’s street department has had time to build many of the new elements this year because of the cancellation of the Christkindlmarkt, but Heck said she expects many of the items debuting this year will become part of the holiday tradition in Carmel.
Santa house, letters and tour
Santa’s house will be set up at Carter Green, but St. Nick won’t be available to visit with children there this year. Instead, the house can be used as a selfie station and a place to drop off letters to Santa. Other mailboxes for letters to Santa will be at Hotel Carmichael, Midtown Plaza and All Things Carmel. Santa will reply to each letter and read a select few on videos posted on Tuesdays to the city’s Facebook page.
Santa will greet Carmel residents on Sunday and Wednesday evenings atop a fire truck that will drive various routes through the city in December. Routes and schedules will be posted at HolidaysinCarmel.com, where residents can also track his progress.
Christkindlmarkt at home
Although the Carmel Christkindlmarkt has been canceled this year, it hasn’t stopped local residents from experiencing some of their favorite traditions at home.
Pam and Doug Niccum of Carmel typically enjoy ending a long Saturday run at the Christkindlmarkt, where they browse the huts offering German-themed gifts and treats. But the 33-foot-tall Glühwein pyramid is their favorite stop, where they buy warm, spiced wine to sip as they shop.
“The Glühwein pyramid is so unique, it really sets the tone for the market,” Pam said. “There are a lot of things at the festival we think are really cool, but the Glühwein pyramid is really fun.”
When they realized they wouldn’t be able to visit the Glühwein pyramid this year, Doug did some research and discovered that much of the wine is supplied by Bristow-based Winzerwald Winery. He gave them a call and had the Glühwein shipped to his home to enjoy this holiday season.
The Niccums said many of their neighbors have done the same.
Carmel art gallery Art on Main is also offering a taste of the Christkindlmarkt by selling Bob’s Belgian Hot Chocolate.
Other items from the Christkinklmarkt are available to purchase online by visiting carmelchristkindlmarkt.com/food-and-gifts.