Christmas Markets & Corona
Die Weihnachtsmärkte are back but with a major difference, thanks to the rising numbers and the Omicron variant
There were no Weihnachtsmärkte or Christmas markets in Germany last year. This year the prospects seemed bright until the Omicron variant came into the frame.
The rising numbers and the overall situation cast real doubts before Munich became the first major Christmas market to be cancelled. Other big cities followed. Nuremberg followed by the two most important cities in the eastern state of Saxony, Dresden and Leipzig were among the many places where the markets could not go ahead this year.
However, it wasn’t entirely doom and gloom. In many other German cities like Hamburg, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen and Freiburg the Christmas markets have made a comeback after a two-year hiatus, and from the last week of November onwards people in these cities could actually kick off the festivities season with something that was missed so much last year. There are restrictions of course.
The 2G rule applies everywhere, meaning only those who are vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 can visit the market. In few places 3G rules are acceptable, meaning people with a negative recent test are allowed to enter the markets. Besides, it is compulsory to wear a mask everywhere in the market.
Standing in a queue, getting your vaccination certificate scanned at the entrance, showing your identity card, registering on the app and then getting the access band before finally getting to enter the premises. All these are firsts in relation to Christmas markets, and some changes and rules may dampen the festive spirit. However, these rules doesn’t mean everyone is not able to attend the markets.
On the positive side the above sequence is confined to only dining areas, where people usually spend more time eating, drinking and chatting with their families and friends. It is in such areas where social distancing norms aren’t exactly followed, and people have to take their masks off, for longer periods at that. In the shops meant for pick up purpose only such an elaborate entry procedure can be avoided.
Some of the major Christmas markets have dissected the shopping and eating areas in a very impressive manner. The historic Roncalli, the famous market at Hamburg’s Rathaus for example, has a big shopping section that can be accessed by a chunk of people and only the mask requirement is mandatory here. However, the dining section is cordoned off and anyone who wishes to enter has to go through the checking drill first. Ditto for the Weißerzauber (White Magic) in Jungfernstieg
The markets per se offer a variety of options as usual. There are makeshift shops selling the famous Glühwein (spiced wine), bratwurst and
currywurst (German sausages) mandeln (almonds), pommes frites (French fries), Hamburger Speck (candy) and many other interesting stuff.
Two years back there were no restrictions in place and these markets were lively as usual. Last year there were a few shops but the markets were conspicuous by their absence. This year they are back but it is a restricted affair, for obvious reasons. Germany is not doing exactly well in the fourth wave and gatherings like these can act as super-spreaders.
That said, Christmas markets are back and they are worth all the effort. Die Weihnachtsmärkte is a distinct part of Christmas celebrations in Germany and their return goes a long way in getting some positivity back in these otherwise grim times. It’s good to be going back there, soaking up the atmosphere and witnessing a lot of happy and excited faces, even on days when the weather isn’t so great.