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Market Square puts on its Yuletide flair

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Shoppers gather at the booth for Old German Christmas Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Judy Castracane (RIGHT) works the booth for Little Europe by Palko Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Nancy Krautz from Chemnitz, Germany works in the Old German Christmas booth Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The ornaments for sale in the Old German Christmas booth Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Nancy Krautz from Chemnitz, Germany works in the Old German Christmas booth Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The menagerie of glass ornaments in the Old German Christmas booth Tuesday November 27, 2012 at the first-ever European holiday market set in Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Santa's House sits in the middle of the Peoples Gas Holiday Market Tuesday November 27, 2012 in Market Square which offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Peoples Gas Holiday Market Tuesday November 27, 2012 in Market Square offers vendors in chalet-like booths selling from the local and international community. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Oh, if only every day for Brianna Schultz, 2, could be like Tuesday.

It started with hours of watching Cartoon Network at home, then moved to Market Square where she had a chance meeting with Santa Claus.

“Tell him what you want for Christmas, Bree,” her mother, Brenda Schultz called out, trying steady her iPhone for a postcard-perfect shot.

Only St. Nick wasn't the only attraction there.

Pittsburgh's Market Square usually is the place where business folk and other Downtown wheeler-dealers go to nosh on lunch and maybe unwind, if the weather's OK.

But this week, and for several weeks to come, it'll be where Yinzer culture meets Euro Yuletide.

Peoples Natural Gas has transformed Market Square into a European-style village reminiscent of a 16th-century German Christkindlmarkt.

Santa was there, along with his elves, a guitar band, scores of Christmas vendors who offered old-world collectibles and gift items from Germany, Russia, Poland and other parts of Europe. No Christmas scene would be complete without a tree; the one here stands 33 feet and is made of silver globes.

“Things are supposed to be pretty and festive during Christmas. This is what the Christmas spirit is all about,” said Schultz, 32, of Mt. Lebanon.

The market started Nov. 24. Officials for Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership say they were inspired by the original Christkindlmarkt, created in 1545 in Nuremberg, Germany, and the popular Christkindlmarket in Chicago.

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hopes the strategy can lure more shoppers — and the downright curious — to the Downtown area.

Maria Athanas does, too.

She runs Little Bavaria, a booth that sells Helmut's Strudel pastries, the popular Austrian-made pretzels and baked goods. Her apple and apricot strudels generally have sold well, though hot apple cider and bratwursts also have been catching some people's attention, as daytime temperatures earlier in the week hovered near freezing.

Janice Levitsky wasn't too far away, rolling a cup of warm cider in her hands.

“It's great to see Market Square come alive like this,” said Levitsky, 42, of Castle Shannon.

Ida D'Errico, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, says the Christmas market is here to stay; the plan is to continue it every year during the holiday season.

One by one people stopped by the glittery booth run by Nancy Krautz, a student from Cottbus, Germany. Many left with bagfuls of hand-painted tree ornaments made by Mario Hausdoerferm, a renowned glass-blower from Haselbach, Germany. Many featured evocative Christmas scenes of quaint cottages, tiny reindeer and peaceful snow-covered forestlands.

Also making their way to Market Square will be glass Christmas pickles, a quirky Yuletide tradition that was dreamed up in America but has been associated with Germany.

“People I think really appreciate this kind of culture, even during the holidays,” Krautz says.

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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