How Christmas Eve in Germany this year clashes with commercialism

While limited shopping Sundays have grown popular in Germany, Christmas Eve appears to be the limit to allowing commercialism on the national day of rest.

How Christmas Eve in Germany this year clashes with commercialism
A store sign announcing opening on Sunday. Photo: DPA

A debate has been brewing over whether or not stores should be open on Christmas Eve this year, which falls on a Sunday – a day that has historically been reserved, and constitutionally protected, in Germany as a “day of rest”.

Bakeries, kiosks, and shops in train stations have long enjoyed an exception to this law and there are also special cases made for a limited number of shopping Sundays linked to events. For example, in Berlin, the state has allowed for eight Sunday shopping days in 2017, in connection with Jazzfest or a Sunday celebration of Reunification Day.

But this year, when some shops announced they might be open on Christmas Eve,  tradition clashed with commercialism.

“Free Sundays”

A Munich alliance made up of churches and unions recently garnered 62,356 signatures for a petition called “Sundays must remain free!” The church-union alliance sent the petition to German department store giants Karstadt and Galeria Kaufhof as a “Christmas present” to the retailers that called for ending the Sunday rest law this past spring. In the end, the department stores will be closed on December 24th.

Various news polls have found that most Germans do not support Christmas Eve as a shopping day. A survey conducted this past November by polling research institute Civey (for Die Welt newspaper) found that 87 percent of Germans believed shops should be closed on Christmas Eve.

But each German state can decide whether or not to allow shops to remain open. In Berlin, supermarket chains Aldi and Kaufland have announced that they will stay closed, while only some Rewe, Netto, Penny and Edeka supermarkets will be open. Denn's Biomarkt and most train station supermarkets in Berlin will be open. In Munich, Dallmayr, Eataly and Käfer shops will be open.

“Retailers, like everyone else, want to prepare for Christmas and celebrate with their families. If Christmas Eve is a Sunday this year, the idea of using the Sunday opening hours that day is incredibly cynical,” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, federal executive board member of trade union Ver.di.


SEE ALSO: Europe embraces Black Friday sales with some reservations


IN PICTURES: Tens of thousands of people flock to Cologne for carnival launch

Carnival kicked off in Germany on Friday, with tens of thousands celebrating in Cologne, while other Karneval strongholds also held events.

IN PICTURES: Tens of thousands of people flock to Cologne for carnival launch

Countless Jecken (revellers) gathered in the parts of Germany that celebrate Karneval – known as the fifth season – on November 11th.

The event starts every year on this date at 11:11 am, and stretches into February or March, when colourful parades spill into the streets.

Cologne always holds a large celebration on this date, with people pouring into its Altstadt (old town).

Revellers in Cologne, as shown in the photos, get ready for carnival season by getting dressed up in various outfits. 


Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

A carnival enthusiast, below, waves to the camera in Cologne. 

A carnival enthusiast

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

Events were taking place throughout Cologne, including in the Heumarkt. There was set to be a stage programme all day with bands including the Bläck Fööss, the Paveiern and Brings. 

READ ALSO: 10 unmissable events in Germany this November


Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd
Cologne’s Kölsch beer was being sold in some areas. People are known to start drinking alcohol early on in the day. 

Beers lined up

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

Below is a view of Zülpicher Strasse in Cologne on Friday morning before carnival kicked off. 

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

It’s not just Cologne that’s celebrating the start of the “fifth season”. Other areas – including Mainz and Bonn as mentioned in the tweets below – are also marking the occasion.

Another carnival stronghold – Düsseldorf – also marked the start of carnival season.

The Düsseldorf carnival figure Hoppeditz, below, awakens from his sleep at 11:11am, marking the start of carnival. The motto of the 2022 carnival season is: “Düsseldorf Helau – we celebrate life”.


Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Strauch

Don’t forget to listen to The Local Germany’s in Focus podcast to hear more about carnival season, as well as German news and other traditions. 

People wear outlandish outfits – with lots of colour involved – like these dudes shown below outside Cologne cathedral.

Revellers in Cologne
Photo; picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil