KITCHENER -- The annual Christkindl Market in Kitchener will be sporting a new online format this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has changed so many traditions.

The German Christmas festival was first held in Kitchener in 1997, and now brings about 40,000 visitors downtown each year. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a four-day event of that size won't be possible, so the committee in charge of the festival have reimagined it.

"The holiday season is one of my favourite times of the year and going to the Christkindl Market is one of my favourite traditions to kick off the season," said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a news release.

"While things need to be different in 2020 due to the pandemic, this much-beloved market will continue, differently this year, with a new online market and entertainment including the throwback to some great moments from previous Christkindl celebrations. I know this news will bring a smile, and festive cheer to families who have made this a tradition for over 20 years."

This year the festival will feature a 24-day online advent calendar, online shopping options to support your favourite vendors and fresh Christmas trees available for sale by curbside pickup.

Officials are also offering an at-home market-in-a-box for people to enhance their experience. The news release said there are a limited number for sale.