German market celebrates the holidays and helps the hungry

This Saturday, the Rotary Club of Williamstown held its German holiday market on Bank Street. Emory Strawn/Photo editor.
This Saturday, the Rotary Club of Williamstown held its German holiday market on Bank Street. Emory Strawn/Photo editor.

On Saturday, Williamstown hosted its very own miniature version of what is known as the Christkindlmarkt. Germany is well known for its centuries-old tradition of Christmas markets during the holiday season. Many cold hands and empty stomachs flocked to the German food fair nestled on the corner of Bank Street and Spring Street where passersby could warm up with some coffee or grab a bite to eat.

The Rotary Club of Williamstown, with the help of local businesses including A-Frame Bakery, Pera Mediterranean Bistro and Sweetwood of Williamstown, organized the event to contribute to the Rotary Club’s latest cause, feeding the hungry in Berkshire County.

A portion of the market’s proceeds went to the Berkshire Food Project, located at the First Congregational Church in North Adams. This organization provides free meals five times a week to anyone who needs them.

Once arriving at Williamstown’s Christkindlmarkt, attendees bought tickets at the Rotary Club’s booth for one dollar each. Inside the tent, food and drinks were priced by tickets instead of cash. The tent’s walls were decorated with cartoon pictures of boys in lederhosen and strings of Christmas lights, which emphasized the German-Christmas theme.

While the setup hardly did much to transport me from Williamstown to the streets of Germany, the decor had a kitschy and fun vibe. All of the vendors were welcoming and eager to show off the various foods they were serving.

I spoke with Williamstown resident Robert Ware ’70, who was selling pretzels with mustard and bottled water from the Williams Inn. He took the time to talk to me about his involvement with the organization and its current efforts in the greater community.

“I am a member of the Rotary Club, and we are selling these items to raise money for the Food Pantry and for our other activities,” Ware said. “The Food Pantry provides free meals to people over in North Adams, and we have been a supporter of theirs for a few years.” A few other Rotarians were also  alumni.

The A-Frame Bakery’s station sold black forest cheesecake, a twist on a classic German dessert. The bakery’s owner, Sharon Sutter, who made the cakes herself, said that this was the first year the A-Frame Bakery had been involved in the event. The dessert consisted of chocolate cheesecake with a cherry preserve topping. I enjoyed it while sitting with friends and fighting the cold as we watched the “reindog” parade that took over Spring Street. Maybe it was the dogs in costumes that put us in such a good mood, but we thought that the cake was rich and delicious — the perfect wintertime dessert.

Of course, any German market wouldn’t be complete without beer. This was provided by Bright Ideas Brewery in North Adams.

Not all contributions were German-infused, however. Pera served a variety of their popular items, including stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, chicken kabobs and bourekas, a pastry made of phyllo dough stuffed with feta cheese.

“I am a Rotarian, so I participate every year,” Fahri Karakaya, the owner of Pera, said. As for the menu, “We wanted to make sure it was interesting and easy to eat, like finger food,” he said.

With the encroaching stress of finals and inevitability of the Massachusetts winter ahead, the German holiday market offered an escape for people who needed to sit down, warm up and enjoy the calm before the storm.

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