Her gold cape settled on her shoulders and the white robe fitting right down to her toes, Nicole Ojukwu Jackson grinned as first one person, then another, tried to help her with the gold tiara.
“Here, let me do that,” she said as she arranged it on her dark, curly hair for photographs.
The tiara stayed in place. So did the smile.
“It’s a pleasure to do this,” she said. “I’m really honored.”
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Nicole, 18, and a senior at Belleville East High School, is the 2015 Christkind, an honorary title bestowed upon a girl in Germany since the 1500s to announce the opening of the annual Christmas market, called Christkindlmarkt, in her community.
About 12:30 p.m. Friday on the Public Square in downtown Belleville, Nicole “will do the official proclamation in English — and sprinkle some German in,” said Carole Piontkowsky, director of Belleville’s second annual Christkindlmarkt.
Modeled after open-air markets, in particular the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, Belleville’s version is a holiday celebration and marketing tool taken up by the city last year to draw people to downtown and acknowledge the German heritage of the community.
In its second year, the market has grown from 13 to more two dozen vendors who will sell food and merchandise from around the world out of cedar-sided “chalets” on the east side of the Square. New this year are live music, dancers and demonstrations in the heated Fest Tent. (See schedule.)
“For anybody that’s been in Germany at a Christmas market, this will be reflective of really just about any of the smaller markets that you see there,” Carole said.
New vendors this year will be selling Polish pottery, all-natural soaps and creams and homemade jams and spreads.
Nicole, and her mother Diane, moved back to Belleville last year after 15 years living in the southwestern city of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Nicole was 6 months old when her family moved to Germany, and while German was her first language, “we spoke English at home,” she said.
A member of Belleville East’s German Club, she was recommended for the honorary job by German teacher Andy Gaa.
It’s not Nicole’s first chance to wear the golden cape and costume.
“When she was 11, she was the Christkind at the (Christmas) market in Kaiserslautern. She danced with her school” in a performance there, said Denise, 48. “She was too young to pass out candy and things like that, but she wore the costume and danced with her dance group.”
The Christkind, or Christ child, is compared to an angel, Carol said, and is symbolic of “Christ as the giver of gifts,” she said. In many European countries, she is the official Christmas gift-bringer.
On Friday, Nicole’s other duties will be to walk around and welcome visitors and pass out sweet treats to children. She will make other appearances during the run of the market, too, which is open daily and closes Dec. 23.
Visitors to the market also can buy raffle tickets ($2 per ticket or 6 for $10) for a handmade, queen-size Belleville Lincoln Logs quilt to benefit the Gustave Koerner House restoration in Belleville. Chances will be for sale at the market’s das Deutsche Haus chalet through Dec.10.
At a glance
This is what you need to know to enjoy the Belleville Christkindlmarkt.
- What: Open-air holiday market featuring German-themed food and merchandise as well as other goods to buy. Includes free demonstrations and live music. (See schedule.)
- When: Opens 8 a.m. Friday and runs through Dec. 23. Official opening by the Christkind about 12:30 p.m. near the heated Fest Tent. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- Where: On the east side of Public Square in downtown Belleville
- Information: www.bellevillechristkindlmarkt.com
Activities at a glance
- Friday — Vibraphonist Matthew Hake, 4-6 p.m.; music by Sunshine Boys, 7-9 p.m.
- Saturday — Belleville Holzschnitzer Woodcarving Club demonstration, 10 a .m. to 4 p.m.; music by Uber Cool, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 4 — Sunshine Boys, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 5 — visit with live reindeer Prancer and Sven, 1-4 p.m.; Schonstadt Sangerbund accompanied by Mardy Eisloeffel on accordion, 6 p.m.; Edelweiss Band, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 11 — Uber Cool, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 12 — Schuhplattler Dancers, 4 p.m.; Harmony Express Chorus, 5:30 p.m.; Belleville Area German Teachers accompanied by Mardy Eisloeffel. 6:10 p.m.; Belleville Community Band, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 18 — The Philosophers, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 19 — visit with live reindeer Prancer and Sven, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Masterworks Children's Choruses, 2 p.m.; Vibraphone, 3-5 p.m.; Dynamic Combo, 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 20 — visit with live reindeer Prancer and Sven, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; St. Matthew Choir, 5:30 p.m.