Harmony Museum's German Christmas Market Expanded

HARMONY, Pa. -- The Harmony Museum’s 2013 WeihnachtsMarkt German-style Christmas market on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9-10, will have a record number of artisans and vendors. The event has become a regional attraction as well as the nine-site museum’s prime annual fundraiser, celebrating the heritage of a community founded in 1804 by immigrants from southwest Germany. 

Presenters include 50 artisans and specialty vendors, museum quilters and weavers, and musical groups. Among vendors are merchants offering German and other European imported goods, antiques, and wine and beer tastings. 

Additional attractions are food purveyors, children’s activities at a log house, the museum’s model railroad displays, and horse-drawn wagon rides through the Harmony National Historic Landmark District. 

Each of the last four editions of WeihnachtsMarkt (Christmas Market in German) has attracted 4,000-5,000 people, ever since the event was designated a "Best in the ‘Burgh" by Pittsburgh Magazine. Those coming to this year’s market are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items as local food bank donations. 

Beginning around this time of year in cities and towns across Germany, central squares are transformed into weeks-long, internationally popular Christmas markets. Harmony’s version lasts just a single weekend, but is otherwise similar. Its artisans and vendors are chosen to participate based on the quality and appeal of their offerings. Entertainment, food and refreshments also reflect the community’s German influence. 

WeihnachtsMarkt hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission -- $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students, free for children younger than six -- provides all-day market, museum and entertainment access, as well as unlimited wagon rides through town. 

Musical performers are Alpen Schuhplattlers of the Pittsburgh Teutonia Mannerchor, Burke’s Bavarian Brass, Pittsburgh Swiss Singers, Augsburg German Band, and the Mad Bavarian. The Acme Tunes hammered dulcimer ensemble plays several sets Saturday in the museum’s Stewart Hall. 

Many artisans demonstrate their crafts while selling quality items as diverse as wood ware and boxes; jewelry; wood carvings; furniture; ornaments; fraktur, paintings, drawings, paintings and other artwork; foodstuffs, including German roasted nuts, olive oils, vinegars, teas, Amish baked goods, flavored butters and mustards, and chocolate caramel apples; German-style tatting; pottery and glass ware; books and historical maps; punched tin; clocks and clock repairs; soaps and lotions; candles; locally forged iron ware; baskets; and wreaths, garlands and other decoratives. 

Carols are sung late on Saturday when the museum’s live Christmas Giving Tree is lighted for the season. 

Harmony’s numerous specialty shops offer even more gift-buying opportunities: works by regional artists, antiques, collectibles, jewelry, sewing and knitting goods, as well as vintage and other distinctive clothing and accessories. 

Harmony is at I-79 exits 87-88, about 10 miles north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and 30 miles south of I-80. Follow directional signs to plentiful free parking. Several parking lots are linked to the museum’s market by continuous, free shuttle bus service. 

The architectural character of Harmony reflects that of the rural German villages from which most of its founders came. Many area Harmonist and later Mennonite buildings survive, and the community's award-winning preservation efforts have long attracted recognition. 

The museum is operated by Historic Harmony, a nonprofit, volunteer historical society and preservation advocate celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2013. Harmony is one of the region’s most historically significant sites. The area’s recorded history began with local Delaware Indians visited by George Washington 260 years ago during a mission seeking French withdrawal from the region, leading to the French and Indian War; its first shot was fired at Washington nearby. Communal Christian Germans fleeing religious persecution founded Harmony a half-century later. They were followed in 1815 by the first Mennonite congregation west of the Alleghenies. This and much more remarkably rich history are presented by the Harmony Museum.