How Christmas Eve in Germany this year clashes with commercialism

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

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.


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