Our next Christmas Tree series for the 13th of December takes us to one of my favorite Christmas markets, Halle (Saale). Located west of Leipzig in Saxony-Anhalt, the city with 130,000 inhabitants is the birthplace of musician Georg Friedrich Händel. Martin Luther left his mark for his movement in connection with the 95 theses. The city has a wide array of historic bridges (see the tour guide here). The city center, with its two cathedrals is the center of all the markets Halle has. This includes the Christmas market. I visited the market with my family in 2012 and it’s one market I would highly recommend when doing a tour during the holiday season. I have a report on the market you can read here. Even without the market this year, the background setting looks Christmassy, even in this pic taken by Robert Wendlandt. The lone exception is the Yuletide elf who decided to jump in front for attention. And the timing was perfect, because like in Germany, Yuletide elves are a part of the holiday tradition even though the legends originate from the far north.
Have you yet to buy any Christmas presents and have no chance at doing some shopping? Click herefor one shopping idea that has been developed to avoid the large crowds. As a hint, you have all of this at your fingertips. 🙂
We’ve reached halftime of our blog-style Advent Calendar with our Theme for this year, Christmas Tree sans Market. To view the previous dates, scroll down and click on the dates. Keep in mind, each date has a surprise which you have to click here to see. Happy Third Advent Everyone! 🙂
Not far from Leipzig is the town of Torgau. Located along the River Elbe in the northern part of Saxony, the town has 18,900 inhabitants and is famous for its Medieval-style Hartenfels Castle and its historic old town. 75 years ago, American and Soviet troops met for the first time in Torgau and together, along with British and French forces, they brought the European theater of World War II to a close. A memorial dedicated to this event can also be found in the city.
Much of Torgau has been restored to its former glory since 1990 including its historic old town and market square, where this tree was found and photographed by Sylvia Quandt. The daytime shot includes a blue backdrop with clouds and all. Normally the Christms market would take place here and it would include a coating of snow on the huts. Sadly this year, it was not the case. Like what we are up to with the Corona Virus, the tree stands all alone just like most of us here in Germany and beyond. And as long as the virus dominates the scene and we make politics out if it, we will continue to all sleep alone, like in the song by Cher:
Yet it doesn’t have to be like that. We can also come together and deal with this and all the other issues that are connected with it, including climate change, which may have triggered Covid-19. We just have to put aside our differences, find common ground and get set to work. And this surprise, also a music piece deals with working together instead of against each other. It’s one of my biggest wishes for Christmas as we contemplate what to do next even as this will linger into next year…..
The Christmas surprise can be found by clicking here!
One can interpret it either way. This week is not only a Genre of the Week but also a Christmas Genre and it all deals with politics and divide.
In the past four years, we have seen our country be divided based on our opinions, preferences and especially political views. In the US alone, we have seen families, networks of friends, teams, clubs and communities being torn apart because of of the opinion of the other one that was considered in a diplomatical way, absurd, unbelieveable and on many occasions, hateful. Be it on social media or in person, we became savages when we should be civilized people. The saddest part is that the America effect has spread to other parts of the world, thus encouraging extremists to rise up to the occasion.
It is hoped and it is also my wish that when Joe Biden takes office on January 20th, 2021 that he sets an example for all and unite as a whole and reject those who wish to continue dividing us, while holding people like Donald Trump accountable for their actions and make them pay the price. Unity is what is needed as we have global issues that need to be tackled. Unity is what brings a community together. And unity is what is needed for the future generations.
And that is the theme behind this music piece by the rock music singer Travis Bahmer. The Great Divide looks at the divisions between the multiple parties and asks the listener this question: What differences do we have and can we work together despite our disagreements? What really divides us? It’s one question that I have to pose on those who cannot accept one or the other, nor can they accept the fact that changes are finally coming after Biden’s victory. It is my wish that we unite as one and leave the forgetful recent past behind.
That is my Christmas wish for 2021 and beyond: UNITY! ❤ ❤
Travis Bahmer is the pseudo-name for Travis Christensen, a graduate from Jackson County Central High School in Jackson, MN in the United States. He graduated in 1998 and has been a rock singer for many years.
Millions of merchants and vendors have been hit hard by the cancellation of Christmas markets throughout Germany this year due to the Corona epidemic, 75% of them are fearing for their financial existence for the markets have been their primary income. The hardest hit are those in the handcraft sectors and businesses that produce homemade products, such as pastries, wood carvings, Christmas decorations and even Christmas arches (Schwibbogen). While the German government is doing everything possible to help these people, local governments, especially in the tourist section, have been working together with local merchants to encourage people to at least purchase their products online to have them delivered in time for Christmas.
One of these concepts that has existed for a few years but is being used extensively this season is a virtual Christmas market. Imagine yourself in a virtual world with the computer screen in front of you and you walk through a market, experiencing the sites and sounds of Christmas at your finger tips, going past the small shops looking at the products and if you are interested, you are directed to the website of the person selling these products. Or you walk through some family attractions, like the amusement park, a castle, a Christmas House where Santa is at, etc. Or you could perhaps enjoy a performance on stage- all at your finger tips.
The idea of a virtual tour is nothing new for some of the cities introduced the concept but in the form of a video tour, mostly via youtube. The first one was produced in 2019 and features the Christmas Market in Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia:
Another example of a virtual tour through a Christmas market was taken in Lüneburg, located in Lower Saxony, south of Hamburg…….
One of the hardest hit states affected by the Corona epidemic is Saxony. Saxony is where the first Christmas Market was introduced in the 11th Century and since then, minus the Cold War era, it has become Christmas Central, featuring the likes of Dresden, Leipzig, Zwickau, Chemnitz, but also the smaller communities, like Glauchau, Hohndorf, Zittau and Plauen. This has to do with the fact that 80% of all Christmas products that are typical for Germany’s Christmas originate from the state. Christmas markets have been completely called off through the Lockdown Light policies passed at the end of October but it did not stop one community from featuring a virtual Christmas market- Seiffen.
Located east of Marienberg and Olbernhau, deep in the heart of the Ore Mountains at the border to Czechia, the town has 2100 inhabitants, yet it is considered the toy capital of the world, and it is one of the most visited communities at Christmas time as the community hosts the Christmas Markets every year. The market is one of the ones that open the earliest and closes the latest as it takes place from October through January and attracts between 500,000 and a million visitors from around the world annually.
The shut down of all markets in Saxony had an enormous impact on the community three quarters of the profits all come from the Christmas markets. Yet it didn’t stop merchants and local officials from creating a virtual market of its own. A virtual website, courtesy of derengo, was created so that people can experience being in the market while being at home. A pair of videos on the concept of a virtual market can be seen here.
After watching the video you can go to the link that will take you to Seiffen’s virtual Christmas market:
I had a chance to “walk around” the virtual market and was amazed at the displays that were there. One can actually walk into the church to see the interior, visit the Christmas huts and buy local products just by clicking on the yellow star. The creme-de-la creme that was astonishing is the Christmas stage (Weihnachtsbühne), where one can find the musical Christmas calendar. Open the door of one day and be greeted with Christmas performances done by local musicians. All of which you can find on youtube. At each place, you can make a donation to help support Seiffen’s market and its local businesses.
The idea was such a phenomenon, that a regional tourist organization created a virtual Christmas market of its own, yet there are two differences: 1. It’s mainly cartoon style but impressive, 2. It features 61 different places to click on to visit and 3. It features local products that serve the state of Saxony.
The advantage of such a virtual market is it allows you to support the local businesses by ordering their products to be shipped and donating to their cause. From the view of the tourist, it allows you to experience the real thing in person, once the lockdown ends and normalcy returns. The disadvantages of such a virtual Christmas Market is you don’t have the chance to contact the merchant in person, especially if shops are closed to the public. E-mails and social media are an alternative but they sometimes take longer than at least a simple phone call. Plus delivery times can take longer, especially as Christmas comes around.
We’ve never tried shopping local online from the markets nor do we know how successful such virtual Christmas markets are. We will have to wait and see how the locals have compensated for the losses through these virtual markets. If there is a silver lining through a virtual market, one definitely can have a feeling of Christmas from their computer screen and if they appear to be attractive enough, it might give tourists an incentive to visit the Christmas market in person next year, when life returns halfway to normal.
We originally had Seiffen on our list this year but had to scrap it. Thanks to the virtual market, we have it as number one on our places to visit list. 🙂