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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Loop

Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza

Kevin Gomez of suburban Bolingbrook, Allison Paul of Logan Square and Jen Stiemke of Irving Park share drinks and laughs during the first day of Christkindlmarket Friday in Daley Plaza. | David Matthews for the Sun-Times

Friday marked the return of three holiday favorites downtown: the Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon, the Millennium Park ice rink and Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.

Christkindlmarket, the German-themed holiday fair that pops up in the Loop every winter, was packed within an hour of its first day back in the plaza, 50 W. Washington St. The fair drew a mix of suburban tourists and Loop office workers, many of them sipping hot Glühwein (mulled wine) out of the market’s signature souvenir mugs.

“It’s just fun,” said Kevin Gomez of suburban Bolingbrook.

Styled as a “picturesque European holiday village,” Christkindlmarket features nearly 60 vendors selling everything from schnitzel and sausages to jewelry, nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks. The fair is named after the Christkind, a golden-haired angel who brings gifts to children. An “Alpine brass” band plays for the crowd, and the market hosts daily Advent calendar prize drawings.

The market sells its signature mugs for $5 — or $7 with spiced wine and other beverages. Christkindlmarket also sells a Kinder Club mug for kids featuring “Opa” (Grandpa) Snowman.

This year’s “punch kettle” mug design is new for Christkindlmarket. Visitors said they generally liked the new mug’s design, but its wide mouth caused their drinks to cool quicker than in previous Christkindlmarket mugs.

The fair drew 1.5 million visitors last year to Daley Plaza, according to the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, which produces the festival.

Christkindlmarket will be open:

11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The festival will have shorter hours:

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, the market’s last day

Admission is free. Many Christkindlmarket vendors accept credit cards, but only cash for food and drinks.

Millennium Park ice rink

Many Chicagoans also grabbed their skates for the first day of the Millennium Park ice rink near Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.

Skating is free, but skate rentals can draw long lines and cost $12 Monday through Thursday, or $14 Friday through Sunday and on holidays.

Open through March 4, the rink will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. on Friday.

The rink will also be open:

10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays through Jan. 6 and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays from Jan. 13 through March 3.

On Sundays, the rink will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

There are also special holiday hours:

*Thanksgiving, Nov. 23: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

*Black Friday, Nov. 24: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

*Christmas Day, Monday, Dec. 25: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ; Dec. 26 through Dec. 30: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*New Year’s Eve, Sunday, Dec. 31: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

*New Year’s Day, Monday, Jan. 1: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 15: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

*Chicago Public School Improvement Day, Friday, Feb. 2: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 19: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Millennium Park ice rink

Chicagoans hit the ice during the first day of skating at Millennium Park. | David Matthews for the Sun-Times

There’s another sign of the holidays coming soon to Millennium Park: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials will light the city’s 62-foot-tall Christmas tree at 6 p.m. Friday in the park, 201 E. Randolph St.

Maggie Daley ice ribbon also open

Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon

There was no line for skates at Maggie Daley Park’s ice ribbon Friday. | David Matthews for the Sun-Times

A relative newcomer, Maggie Daley Park’s ice ribbon has entertained thousands of skaters since its 2014 debut.

Like the rink at Millennium Park, skating the ribbon is free but skate rentals have a cost and can draw long lines.

Skate rentals cost $12 Monday through Thursday and $14 Friday through Sunday and on holidays. Locker rentals are $2 each.

The ribbon will be open:

Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

The ribbon also has special holiday hours:

*Thanksgiving, Nov. 23: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

*Black Friday, Nov. 24: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

*Christmas Day, Monday, Dec. 25: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

*New Year’s Eve, Sunday, Dec. 31; MLK Day, Jan. 15; President’s Day, Feb. 19: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

*New Year’s Day, Monday, Jan. 1: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Skaters should also note the ribbon’s Zamboni times, which can take up to an hour.

The Zamboni will smooth the ribbon:

2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday

2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Fridays

Noon, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays

Noon 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays

Tyler August of suburban Huntley spent his 14th birthday Friday skating the ribbon for the first time. A hockey player, August said he skated the ribbon “maybe 50 times” when asked by a reporter.

“It’s interesting, way different than the regular rink,” he said.

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