One-way streets instead of colourful hustle and bustle, Glühwein-to-go instead of romantically sipping it at a stall, and a mask in addition to a scarf and cap: this is what this year’s Advent season in Germany could look like.
“This makes the Christmas market less cozy,” said a Mainz spokesman, but added it’s better than foregoing all Weihnachtsmärkte – a core cultural symbol of the countdown to Christmas in Germany.
That's why German cities don't want to do without their Eierpunsch (eggnog), Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and other winter delights. In the middle of the summer, as Germany experiences record heat for the year, they are already planning for the markets.
The markets typically begin at the start of December and last until Christmas Eve, but some start as early November and stretch into the new year.
Ten of thousands of jobs depend on them. Hotels and restaurants make a large part of their turnover during the Christmas period.
Therefore, in many places, planning is underway to ensure a cosy Christmas season despite the coronavirus.
Bavaria, which hosts a number of famous Christmas markets, is particularly keen on preparing for this winter.
The biggest challenge will be to direct the streams of visitors, said Nuremberg economics expert Michael Fraas.
For this purpose, a kind of one-way street system with a predetermined direction of travel is to be introduced. Instead of enjoying the traditional “Drei im Weckla” (three sausages in a bun) at the stall, food and drink will be available for take-away only.
Christmas markets, such as this one in Essen in 2019, can quickly become packed. Photo: DPA
An Augsburg city spokesperson announced that “that the stands will be distributed to as many places in the city centre as possible,” in order to avoid large crowds.
A 400 metre long carpet of light consisting of 150 stalls, a 20 metre high Christmas tree and colourful Christmas tree baubles usually decorates Berlin's Breitscheidplatz during the Advent season.
According to the organizer, this should also be the case this year – possibly in a slightly more spread out form.
Also in Saxony, there are no plans to give up the traditional outdoor stollen stalls and Bergparade that travels through the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge).
“In this challenging year all the more so”, said the District Administrator of the Erzgebirgskreis, Frank Vogel, of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU).
Of course, the markets are taking place under different conditions than in previous years, but they should, as always, “spread a homely feeling and pre-Christmas mood”, emphasised Saxony's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Barbara Klepsch (CDU).
A full 57 percent of people in Germany said that they would visit a Christmas market this year in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey for the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR). Yet nearly one in three would prefer to skip the experience in 2020.
In Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, organisers envision admission controls and masks – even if it clouds the Christmas mood, they said.
Monika Flocke from the Cologne Christmas Society was a little more pessimistic. The Christmas market experience is associated with narrowness and crowds, she said, something which could not be maintained with social distancing.
“What you would then organise would not be a classic Christmas market,” Flocke said.
In Düsseldorf, on the other hand, Christmas markets are still slated to take place, following strict hygiene rules.
In other cities – including Stuttgart, Hanover and Frankfurt am Main – it’s still up in the air whether people will gather amid the cosy wooden stalls this year.
In the end, everything will depend on the development of infection numbers, authorities said. If you plan, then only with caution, has become their unofficial motto.
A Christmas season will take place, as always – yet it's already planned to be quite different this year.
hustle and bustle – (der) Trubel
stalls/booths – (die) Buden
cozy – lauschig
Cultural asset – (das) Kulturgut
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