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It’s the most wonderful time of the year at Bronner’s in Frankenmuth.

Around 4,000 shoppers are expected to visit the Christmas wonderland for last-minute gift shopping, visits with Santa, and a “Silent Night” sing-a-long, according to Maria Sutorik, the youngest child of founder Wally Bronner.

“About 10 percent of (Christmas Eve) visitors over the years traditionally see Santa to get their last-minute wishes in,” Sutorik said.

Santa will be posted near the store’s south entrance until 3 p.m. Wednesday, when a holiday sing-a-long will begin at the nearby Silent Night Chapel.

“We sing ‘Silent Night,’” Sutorik said. “It is the one time of the year where the public can enter the inner area of the chapel (and) sit on the benches inside the chapel.”

The chapel at Bronner’s is a replica of a chapel in Oberndorf, Austria, built where the song “Silent Night” first was written and sung, according to Sutorik. On days other than Christmas Eve, much of the chapel remains off-limits to the public, behind a glass partition.

The store closes early Wednesday at 4 p.m. It will be closed Thursday.

Sutorik said it has been a busy Christmas season so far, thanks in part to mild weather.

“The weather’s been so mild that it’s enabled visitors to travel without worrying about icy roads,” she said. “And then also with the gas prices coming down, it’s made a trip to Frankenmuth just an easy gas tank away.”

People often visit Bronner’s in the days leading up to Christmas to pick up last minute gifts, Sutorik said.

“We aren’t like other stores that have a big, huge after-Christmas sale. We’re Christmas all year round,” she said. “There’s all sorts of goodies out there for people to pick from.”

Once Christmas is over, it will be time for the Bronner family and store employees to celebrate with a holiday party of their own.

“Traditionally it’s held in the theme of a country or a region, and this year we’re doing Christmas in Hawaii,” Sutorik said.

In true Bronner’s spirit, the party isn’t held until Jan. 17, extending the Christmas season well into the New Year.

“We used to have our party in December but it got a little crazy,” Sutorik said. “The staff does enjoy celebrating Christmas again in January — or 11 months early.”

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

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