Many Christmas markets in Germany are about to end | DOMRADIO.DE

An old tradition in flux: Christmas markets have experienced a boom in recent years – which also defied terrorist attacks. Now the corona crisis is presenting the organizers with new challenges.

Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg? Called off. The popular markets at Cologne Cathedral and in the old town? Fall victim to the virus. In some places the markets are on the brink – for example at the famous Striezelmarkt in Dresden. Mulled wine, bratwurst and nativity scenes will, in the best case, be enjoyed with a strict mask requirement. Coziness with big cutbacks.

A big blow for the almost 3,000 Christmas markets from Flensburg to Garmisch – and for the showman industry. Already in the summer, the income from folk festivals largely lost them. Now many are threatened with extinction, says the President of the German Schaustellerbund, Albert Ritter. The association estimates gross sales at Christmas markets at 2.9 billion euros per year.

Christmas markets are a welcome distraction in the pandemic

No wonder that the Schaustellerbund asked cities and municipalities last week to hold on to the Christmas markets. Fresh air is guaranteed: it takes place in the open air; the AHA rules could also be followed, it said in a feasibility study. In the face of the Corona crisis, people longed for distraction, relaxation and community experiences.

The Christmas markets had already been badly shaken in recent years: at the latest since the attack on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin in 2016, the organizers had to deal with concrete barriers and increased use of security personnel. In 2018 there was another attack on the Strasbourg Christmas market; In 2017, plans by Islamists for an attack on the Essen Christmas market were revealed. Christmas markets as fortresses: Experts consider them to be particularly vulnerable because they are difficult to protect and such acts guarantee maximum horror.

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An old tradition

Despite everything: the number of visitors remained high. It is estimated that Christmas markets were visited by 160 million people annually. The people wanted to immerse themselves in a romantic world that was associated with positive childhood memories, hopes and comfort, said the general manager of the Schaustellerbund, Frank Hakelberg.

Pre-Christmas markets have existed since the late Middle Ages. In the 14th century the custom arose of allowing toy makers, basket weavers and confectioners to set up stalls for things that children received for Christmas. In 1310 a Nikolausmarkt in Munich was mentioned for the first time, in 1434 the Dresden Striezelmarkt. The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt can be traced back to the middle of the 16th century.

Christian motifs hardly play a role anymore

“The Christmas market has become a mass phenomenon that you can hardly escape”, emphasizes the Regensburg cultural scientist Gunther Hirschfelder, referring to the boom that began in the 1960s. He explains this with the fact that even in the age of individualism, people were looking for community and group experiences.

The markets have changed significantly: They have become louder, more colorful and globalized. Christian motifs hardly play a role anymore: “The crib is next to the reindeer and the après-ski hut,” says the scientist. Christmas becomes Christmas first, then X-Mas. And from Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Russian Father Frost or a cozy bear with a pointed cap. “Today’s decoration is a mixture of fantasy novel, Ikea and country lust,” says Hirschfelder. “A church tower in the background doesn’t do any harm.”

Woelki: A chance to come back

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The cultural scientist knows that Christmas markets were created primarily in Protestant cities. In Catholic areas, until well into the 20th century, food could hardly be offered because Advent was celebrated as a time of fasting.

It is quite possible that the 2020 season will go down in history as the time of the Christmas market fast. The Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki also sees this as an opportunity to return to the religious roots of the Advent season. Instead, congregations could offer Advent events such as prayer celebrations, choral performances and discussions in the squares. So it could be shown: “God does not leave the world and people alone.”

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