Midpeninsula Post

“Like a little piece of home”: The German Holiday Market enchants visitors with an authentic experience

(Mia Bassett)

The German Holiday Market was a whirlwind of wonderful displays ranging from handmade soaps to German cakes and candy. Featuring musical performances, craft stations, and game booths, the winter event emulated the feel of a traditional European open-air market.

The annual event, a fundraiser for the German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV), took place on Dec. 11 at the Mountain View Caltrain station this year, although it was canceled due to COVID-19 the year prior.


A unique aspect of the German Holiday Market is that it is organized and run by students from the GISSV. Students sign up to volunteer at the stands, run game booths and sell food and drinks.

“There’s some people responsible for organizing the whole thing, and then the students can sign up as volunteers,” said Mira Knoll, an eighth grade student at GISSV who helped run the stand for coffee and cake — or “kaffee und kuchen.”

The menu for Kaffee und Kuchen. (Mia Bassett)

While eighth to 12th graders managed the food stalls, sixth graders and seventh graders ran the game booths, where participants could play games to win prizes. The GISSV student orchestra also performed at the event.


Although the event was organized by the school, there were plenty of other goods to purchase. Dennis Olarte, an owner of Essence of O, was there to sell handmade glycerin soaps, reminiscent of traditional soap.

“When [soap] was first invented, it was made with glycerin. Then when the Industrial Revolution took over, they started to remove the glycerin … [and] they would put detergent. But this is the original way of making soap,” Olarte said.

Essence of O’s colorful glycerin soaps. (Mia Bassett)

The vibrant patterns on Essence of O’s soaps provide a wonderful display that only serves to further the jovial atmosphere of the market.


Another colorful booth at the market was Jeffrey Anderson’s stall, selling marionette puppets and other festive toys. Anderson, who works in biotechnology, says he has an affinity for German culture. This was part of what inspired him to sell at the market. 

Anderson’s child-friendly marionettes from Prague. (Mia Bassett)

Anderson began by selling handmade lanterns from Haitian artists, donating his profits to charity. Eventually, when looking for a place to sell more products, he and his team discovered the German Holiday Market. This year, they sold puppets — specifically children-oriented ones — from Prague.

“They’re super easy for kids to use and maneuver and so it’s a whole different experience for a little child,” Anderson said.


Teresa Levy and her husband sold wooden art at the German market. The art was created by Levy’s brother, David Levy, who has been creating original wooden designs for 45 years, and sells more of his works in his shop near Davis, in Woodland.

A wooden design on display. (Mia Bassett)

“Everything in this booth is my brother’s original designs,” Levy said.

Levy uses high-quality wood and even some handmade tools for his designs. Many of his tools are also very old: for example, a saws he used was involved in the creation of old Eastman Kodak box cameras. 

“He just gets the best of the best,” Levy said.


While David works with wood, another artist, Gabrielle Heilek, works with silver and precious gems, and has been for four years.

“I like to do things with my hands. I started by doing a first project and then got hooked,” Heilek said. “Eventually you have so many pieces that you go, ‘what am I going to do with them?’ and you start selling them.”

Heilek’s jewelry, made with silver and precious gems. (Mia Basssett)

Heilek doesn’t have a physical storefront, but instead sells jewelry at open-air markets like the holiday market. However, the German festival is special to her because of her German origin.

“The reason why I really like this market is because they do a really nice job making it look very authentic,” Heilek said. “It’s just like a little piece of home.”

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