Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars on Christmas decorations. We then spend even more time actually decorating, putting life and limb at risk for twinkle lights and a Santa on your roof.
If holiday decorations are your thing, no matter what the holiday, then you’ve got to make a road trip to Bronner’s Christmas Store in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
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Visiting the World’s Largest Christmas Store
Touted as the World’s Largest Christmas Store, Bronner’s doesn’t look that imposing from the outside. But once inside, you’re handed a map. Imagine shopping for holiday decorations in a space that covers six football fields!
The store — or should we say stadium since we’re talking in terms of football fields — has about 350 fully decorated Christmas trees, each one more than eight feet tall. There are about 50,000 different kinds of ornaments. Then there are the villages, nativities, inflatables, train sets, and you name it. All of it lit, all of it moving, just like the hands on the electric meter outback. The store’s monthly electric bill tops $2,000. YIKES!
History of World’s Largest Christmas Store
This entire commotion started in 1945 when Wally Bronner painted a Christmas sign as a gift. Then it grew and grew and grew — kind of like the Grinch’s heart when the people of Whoville started singing on Christmas morning.
While the store is all about celebrating Christmas, and specifically the Christ in Christmas, Bronner’s also carries a healthy selection of Hanukkah and Kwanza merchandise, along with decor for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter and every other day that has a designated color and theme. And you can get everything personalized and shipped.
Outside, there’s a a half-mile long Christmas Tree Lane, lit every night of the year, contributing to that big ol’ electric bill.
Then there’s a Silent Night Chapel, an exact replica of the Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf Austria, where the classic Christmas carol was first performed in 1818. That’s pretty cool.
Where to Eat in Frankenmuth, Michigan
While they have a lovely snack bar at Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, not far away is a place that boasts it serves the World’s Best Fried Chicken Dinner. So grab a snack at Bronner’s if you like, but save your serious appetite for the Bavarian Inn Lodge.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see a little five foot fireball running around by the name of Dorothy Zehnder. She honed her cooking skills while growing up on a farm in this part of Michigan. Then she and her husband made a living feeding the many lumbermen who worked in the area. Chickens would grow and fatten fast, so that became the basis of their restaurant that has now grown into a complex that includes lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment.
Dorothy Zehnder’s Legacy in Frankenmuth, Michigan
Dorothy told me that restaurants of the Bavarian Lodge are the largest consumers of Michigan products in the country. Each day they will go through 100 pounds of potatoes for their cheesy potatoes and 36 bushels of Michigan apples for their fresh applesauce. Dorothy is in the kitchen each day supervising, tasting and making sure everything is just right.
In celebration of her 90th birthday in 2011, she released a cookbook with her cheerful face on the cover and calls it “Come Cook With Me.”
It’s filled with recipes of all the goodies served at the Bavarian Inn, dishes that Dorothy has made for her family for years and years. You’ll find a great recipe for Cranberry Orange Relish on page 40 and an Apple-Pecan Cake on page 157 that would surely add some pizzazz to your family gatherings.