For the first time since 2019, Christmas markets are off and running. After having to deal with cancellations because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with that effect, many vendors fighting for their lives because of the fact that it was their primary source of income, 2022 finally came and it could not have come sooner enough for many, like yours truly, who had been dying to see some entertainment, while drinking a good mulled wine (Glühwein) and trying a few goodies that are homemade.
Meerane is one of the stops. Located at the border between Saxony and Thuringen, the town of 15,000 inhabitants is located five kilometers NW of Glauchau at the junction between the Motorway 4 and Highway B93, 30 kilometers west of Chemnitz and 20 kilometers north of Zwickau. The town is a main shopping magnet for locals and passers-by as most of the shopping centers and an industrial park are both located at the aforementioned junction. Inside the city, it is laden with dozens of historic buildings, many of them over a century old and with ornamental decorations. The city center has two market squares, one at Teichgraben and one at Postplatz near the Simmel Supermarket.
The Christmas market itself consists of two parts. The main market is at Teichplatz in front of a historic building that has a sundial on the southern façade. That plus the St. Martin’s Church located up the steps, provide a unique backdrop. The market was small compared to other Christmas markets. With eight huts- all but two providing only food and drink- a small stage for entertainment, and other decorations, the Meerane market is perhaps the smallest Christmas market in western Saxony. Nevertheless the market square during the weekend of first Advent was well visited.
But wait! If you think that was all with the Christmas Market at Teichplatz, think again. Walking only 100 meters towards Postplatz by Simmel, one is greeted with an open door to the Kunstwerk Art Gallery, located behind the Bookstore. Walking up one floor, one will be greeted with some homemade arts and crafts with free cookies and beverages plus a warm atmosphere. Children could create their own artwork while looking at and even buying some homemade crafts, be it quilts and pillows, books written by locals, paintings, wood-carved candle holders and clocks, plus other Christmas items. Like the market square, this was well visited by those who stopped by to look at the artwork and enjoy some yummy stuff.
Visiting the first Christmas market since 2019, it is a foregone conclusion that after a two-year absence that planners had to start very small to determine whether the market had a pulse after being in a coma for so long. There were many vendors who closed shop permanently when they learned that the markets were cancelled in both 2020 and again in 2021, though in 2021, the closure was not only a spur of the moment that provided a tub of ice-cold water on Saxony and all German states to the south and west, Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg included. The closure was to a certain degree discriminatory for in the northern half of Germany, including Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony allowed for cities to open the markets, many of them had extended days through January 6th. This led to some ideas from people like myself to travel north and risk getting infected just to enjoy the Christmas feeling that was missing. In my case, we changed our minds and it was probably for the best for the infection rates were incredibly high at that time, and restrictions were already in place. It was no surprise that vendors either went bankrupt or went north to earn their money at the markets and left the local communities behind, in the cold.
Meerane had a larger market which stretched from the market square to Teichplatz with Open Shopping on Sunday prior to the two-year absence and it was understandable that because of fewer vendors they expected less this year. From my perspective however, the market was well-received with hundreds of people at the booths enjoying some food, drink and entertainment. From that aspect, even though it is considered the smallest market in the region and was opened for only one weekend, it was considered a success and is one that has the potential to expand in the future. Already we’re seeing this with neighboring Waldenburg (see my guide from 2019 here), which used to have the market on one Advent weekend, but now has it every Advent weekend. Waldenburg is five kilometers east of Meerane. And even if the market was only for one to two weeks, it would definitely bring in more people than on one weekend alone. The question is whether they would have more vendors next year in order to expand it. That is the biggest question. But the biggest advantage of this is that small businesses, including dozens of restaurants, would benefit from it, bringing in more revenue and perhaps more employees.
Meerane’s market shows that Christmas Markets are alove and well. It started small, which was good. Because it was well-received, the next step is to extend the times of the market and expand it to include the entire city center. How that can be done depends on how the 2023 market is planned and how many vendors are willing to participate. If it is planned out carefully, it may indeed return to what it was in 2019, before Covid-19 brought life to a complete standstill.