For me, the word “Christmas” conjures up images of Santa Claus, shiny new presents, families huddled up around a freshly cut Christmas tree, and of course the evergreen song “Dashing through the snow”. This year however, I am fortunate to experience something different. Instead of the song, I was quite literally dashing through the cold winter of Germany. Flying all the way from India to pursue my internship in the marketing department at Truetzschler has given me new experiences and my share of “Ah ha” moments. My visit to the Christkindlmarkt is one of those.
Building an inclusive community
The Christkindlmarkt in Mönchengladbach is one of a kind with a story to tell. Since 1973, the Christkindlmarkt continues its efforts towards building a community that attaches itself to the value of inclusion and respect. One day before the opening of the market, I meet Charlotte Lorenz, the CEO of the Christkindlmarkt, amidst preparations. She explains: “The Christkindlmarkt is not only for the specially-abled but also made by them. Right from the beginning, this initiative bears the idea of bringing intersectionality between the abled and specially-abled.” Every year, the Saturday before the first Advent (a religious celebration in preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ), various non-profit organisations and volunteer groups come together to set up stalls that offers a repertoire of Christmas goodies ranging from food, drinks, decor, books, games and many more. The money that is earned goes to the fortune of the specially-abled people.
Truetzschler lays the foundation
“Truetzschler plays one of the most important roles in the organization of the Christkindlmarkt, because they lay the foundation for it by putting up the stalls. The trainees load, unload, build and dismantle the wooden bars that make up the stalls” says Lorenz. I watch the team of trainees from Truetzschler arriving at the spot. With the guidance of Ralph Thannisch, head of the apprenticeship department, and a few other senior trainers, they put up the market in a swift and energetic manner. Thannisch tells me: “Every year since 2011, the workstation is moved here for a day. The trainees of Truetzschler regardless of their training domain are involved in the task. This year we have even repaired the wooden bars before we brought them here.”
More awareness each year
On the opening day, I meet Edda Schürenkrämer, wife of Dr Michael Schürenkrämer, one of the members of the supervisory board of Truetzschler. She has been an active member of the Inner Wheels club in Mönchengladbach for 25 years and is driving Trützschler’s engagement at the Christkindlmarkt. Schürenkrämer is not only coordinating the support from Trützschler in setting up the stalls, but also sells glühwein herself at the Inner Wheels club booth every year. I meet her and her daughter Caroline Schürenkrämer over a cup of hot Glühwein and they tell me how it all started:
“Christkindlmarkt started as a small kiosk with a few tables and has grown so much over the years, that it has over 50 stalls now. However, the objective of the Christkindlmarkt remains the same. If you look around, you will find everybody working together, despite their differences. In fact, each year more and more people are being aware of inclusion and equality,” confirms Schürenkrämer. “From selling junk toys to handcrafted Christmas decor and now Glühwein, it has been a wonderful journey and we enjoy doing this each year,” says Caroline Schürenkrämer.
Indeed, the most wonderful time
Continuing to explore the Christkindlmarkt, I am impressed by the things I see. What makes this market even more special is that most things sold here are handmade by the specially-abled. Despite the cold winds leaving my body numb, I feel a warmth waft through the community that the people have built. At this point I have no regrets of missing Diwali back home (Diwali is one of the popular festivals of India celebrated during the month of October or November). As I walk out of the market with many first experiences, the musical troop begins singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. Even though I am miles away from home, I couldn’t agree more on that.