Cities as well as historic towns and castles had decided to cancel their Christmas Markets prior to the passing of new Coronavirus guidelines on Wednesday in Berlin. Now because of the new partial lockdown scheduled to start on Monday, the decision to call it off is as good as official.
For the first time in 75 years, Germany will not have a Christmas Market this holiday season. The decision came in response to the German government passing new Corona restrictions similar to a lockdown, which is scheduled to be in effect for one month beginning Monday November 2nd. They call for the closing of bars, restaurants and other eateries, as well as massage and cosmetic businesses. Amusement parks, zoos, museums, theaters, concert halls and movie cinemas will also be forced to shut down. Amateur sports are also banned for one month, while professional sports events can only be held without fans. With the exception for church services and demonstrations, all events, private and public, that bring in hundreds of visitors are banned from taking place. Lastly, no more than two households or 10 people are allowed in public.
Christmas markets in Germany normally start on the first Advent, which is, for this year, November 29th. They last until the latest, December 24th. Some places can hold theirs through January 2nd. It’s a 500 billion Euro business that attracts as many as 40-60 million visitors every year and features small businesses selling handcrafted items as well as homemade pastries and other cooked entree’s. The most famous ones are in Nuremberg, Dresden, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Hamburg, Bremen and the hundreds of markets in Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne. Even smaller, lesser known ones, like in Flensburg, Leipzig, Quedlinburg, Bayreuth and Essen are recommended.
Prior to the proposed lockdown, many cities and smaller communities had cancelled their Christmas Markets for despite efforts to make them safe, the hygiene guidelines, combined with problems with space availability to conform with the social distancing guidelines plus with the restrictions on the consumption of alcohol made planning for the markets unrealistic. The enforcement of stricter rules by local and state governments to reduce the amount of people on the streets forced many cities, like Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Mannheim and lastly, Nuremberg to forego this year’s markets and plan for the ones in 2021. Many surveys revealed that 60 percent of the public would rather forego the markets this year for safety sake.
At the time of this release, over 18,700 new cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed within the last 24 hours. The number of cases total has reached 499,000 with almost 11,000 deaths. The daily infection rate is expected to reach the 20,000 mark by next week. The government is hoping that the partial lockdown will bring that rate down to ensure that families and friends can celebrate Christmas. Furthermore the one month lockdown should ease the strain of the medical sector in general, which has dealt with lack of personnel and beds for Corona patients. If the partial lockdown does not help, Germany could face a total lockdown similar to earlier this year, where no one was allowed to leave their homes without a legitimate excuse, plus all non-essential businesses, from hardware stores to floral shops, clothing stores to hair dressers were closed down. This is currently being practiced in Ireland, Wales, Czechia, Spain and most recently, France.
The announcement of new measures has had a cascading effect on other markets in Germany, for those that were planning to hold theirs this year have either called it off or are very close to doing so. This includes those in Saxony, like Dresden, Leipzig and Annaberg-Buchholz, but also in the Franconia region in Bavaria as well as Rothenberg ob der Tauber. While that market is in its 500th year, it is unlikely that the market will take place this year. Like this market, many with jubilees and high traditional value will most likely have to postpone the celebrations until next year, when a vaccination is available and the virus wanes. But for now, we have to salvage what’s left of 2020, even if it means foregoing events and other gatherings in the name of health and safety. And health and safety has been and will be at the paramount of importance for all time to come, even after the Coronavirus.
The Flensburg Files will still do a series on Christmas Markets but looking back at the ones visited since the column was started in 2010. They will include pieces on some that have never before been released, except for the photos you will find on the Files Facebook page. You can find the markets visited and critiqued here.