The arrival of the Christkindlmarket is pretty much the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. 

Sure Santa is already at the mall and your neighbor started stringing lights last weekend, but nothing says "Christmas is here" like Daly Plaza transforming into a winter wonderland.

WGN - Attracting over a million visitors every year, the 23rd annual market features dozens of vendors from Chicago, Germany and Austria, selling everything from ornaments to roasted nuts and traditional German fare. This year’s market runs from Friday, November 16 until Christmas Eve (December 24), and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

I used to work downtown and usually hated anything that brought a bunch of tourists to the loop. It just made my walk to work that much harder. But I always went a little out of my way to walk through the Christkindlmarket pretty much every day that it was up.

Yes, it gets crowded but everyone is in a really good mood. There's great food, some adult beverages, and really good cheer. I'm not exactly sure where the great smell comes from, maybe some sort of roasted nut, but they should definitely package it and sell that candle.

Downtown Chicago as a whole does a great job of decorating for Christmas. You have skating at the bean, the Marshal Field's (or whatever it's called now) window display, and the Christkindlmarket. That's a full day of holiday cheer.