World’s Oldest Christmas Market Cancelled due to Corona

Bautzen’s Wenzelmarkt will not take place this year. Corona Concept considered not realistic. Market dates back to 13th Century. Could Germany cancel Christmas Markets altogether?

BAUTZEN/ BERLIN- The smell of Räuchermänner (incense figures), the taste of Glühwein (mulled wine), the sounds of Christmas music, and the joy of a company of friends and family at the Christmas booths. These are typical of the Christmas markets in Germany, which have been a cornerstone for the holidays and been adopted by other countries.

But that could all be cancelled should the number of Corona Virus cases skyrocket and the German government decides to put the country into a total lockdown before Christmas, similar to what happened back in March.

After Cologne decided to cancel all its Christmas markets, another major Christmas market in the German state of Saxony is being called off this year. The Wenzelsmarkt in Bautzen is the oldest known market of its kind. It was established in 1384 by King Wensceslaus IV and it became the platform for other cities to establish their Christmas markets, including Dresden, Nuremberg and Lübeck. Despite efforts to expand the market and make it hygene-friendly  to the visitors, the Bautzen City Council yesterday announced that the 637th annual Wenzelsmarkt will not take place this year. This was confirmed by its organizers on its homepage as well as through many news sources throughout Saxony.

In a statement to TAG24 Chemnitz, Bautzen’s mayor Alexander Ahrens stated that the hygiene regulations in light of the Corona Virus could not be fulfilled. Some of the ideas that went around included having the market at Schützenplatz instead of the city center and having electronic tracking  in case of an outbreak at the market. Originally, the Wenzeslmarkt was to take place from 27 November to 22 December of this year. Bautzen is located in eastern Saxony, between Görlitz and Dresden in the Lusatia (Lausitz) region.

At the time of this article, the number of Corona Virus cases has skyrocketed throughout Germany and Europe, with the hardest hit area being neighboring Czechia. Already the government has ordered schools and restaurants to close through November.  In Germany, the daily number of cases has doubled since last week. 5132 new cases were recorded by the Robert Koch Institute in the past 24 hours. A week ago, it was 2828. In addition, 47 districts and cities have experienced a new number of cases of over 50 per 100,000, including Berlin, Munich, many parts of North Rhine-Westphalia and even in the Ore Mountain District, located south and west of Chemnitz. There are fears that Germany could have an average of 20,000 new cases a day by December, raising the prospects of another lockdown  even before Christmas. After months of state-wide restrictions, the calls for a universal guidelines for all German states are getting louder and they could be in force by the end of the week.  

And while the ministers of each state are against banning Christmas markets for this year, as they are considered large-scale events that are not allowed for the rest of the year, many communities are already taking measures to either cancel or trim down the offers at the Christmas as a way of reducing the crowd. Already there are Christmas markets that are being canceled in Lüdenscheid, Kleve (NRW), Neersen (Rhineland Palatinate) and in nine communities in Baden-Wurttemberg. The Market at the castle will not take place in Düsseldorf, nor will there be one at the Holy Ghost Hospital in Lübeck’s City Center. Dortmund’s Lichtelfest will not take place but the Christmas market at the City Center will, but only with online reservations made in advance.

And while other cities, like Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg are trying to expand or even extend the Christmas markets- the latter going to New Year’s Day even- this may not be enough to stem the flow of people going to the markets, as a market attracts anywhere between 10,000 and 1 million per market per season, pending on the location, and the size in comparison with the population of the community. And should none of the measures, such as social distancing, mouth masks and other hygene concepts, work to stop the spread of the virus, this Christmas may be the first time where we have ghost towns with empty streets covered in snow during a nuclear winter, instead of booths selling gifts and delicious foods to enjoy in addition to the Glühwein, the singing, and the Christmas jeer with good company.  

The Flensburg Files will continue to follow up on the story and keep you posted on the latest with the Corona Virus. In the meantime, stay healthy, stay safe and remember the AHA!