This time of year, with Christmas just around the corner, we are used to shiny bright lamps, scent of the mulled wine and Christmas songs already filling out the space. There would be open many stalls with lots of delicious food and beautiful colourful things to buy, carousels and ice skating. But most important of all, there would be friends and families gathering and spending time at Christmas markets enjoying each other’s company and the festive setting. Unfortunately, the year 2020 is seeing a very different scenario from all the years before. Even with or better to say, despite the corona situation in Europe, we were still hoping to feel the Christmas cheer and magic at the Christmas markets; however, unfortunately, the restrictions needed to be tightened, and one by one the markets mostly got cancelled either because of the strict regulations as in some places they are strictly forbidden or just because the organisers decided that, with all the regulations that needed to be put in place, it wasn’t profitable or advisable to have traditional Christmas market in such uncertain times.
However, not everything is lost as Christmas spirit can’t be broken and many cities and markets have found alternatives or have modified their concept. To keep the Christmas spirit and support the local businesses, people have found alternatives, first with the cities trying to decentralise the markets and then resorting to other solutions like having drive-ins and going online.
With Germany having a strong tradition of the Christmas markets, it is understandable that people were very disappointed to learn that all big events were already cancelled at least until the 31 December with the recent extension of the coronavirus shutdown until 10 January. Though it was not immediately clear what this meant for the Christmas markets as the decision is not made on a state-level, the markets started to get cancelled one by one and some of the the biggest and most famous ones like in the ones in Dresden, Munich, Cologne and many in Berlin have been called off. However, there are many online Christmas markets and innovative concepts such as mulled-wine to go like in Cologne, so you can stroll around the decorated city with your favourite Christmas drink.
The situation is also not very different in France, just to say that one of the most famous ones – the Marché de Noël in Strasbourg has been cancelled which usually draws over two million people per year with 300 stalls. Now, with the current corona measures, it is clear why such an event can’t take place though an alternative to the visitors is provided. To be socially responsible and still try and sustain local businesses the online Marché OFF Strasbourg has been created offering all sorts of products and activities, from Christmas shopping to food, concerts and workshops.
Though Vienna is famous for its Christmas markets, especially the Wiener Weihnachtstraum (Vienna Christmas Dream) in front of the Town Hall, this year, like in all countries, it will look a bit different. The Christmas market has gone digital instead – you can order all sort of products that you would usually buy from the stalls – from Christmas decorations and handmade souvenirs to famous Mozart chocolate. Though there are not usual stalls by the Town Hall, you can still take a walk to see the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Living in Brussels, it was very disappointing to find out that Winter Wonders and Christmas market were cancelled this year, though of course, with current situation it was the only reasonable thing to do. Usually packed with people enjoying the Christmas cheer, food and shopping at many stalls like in most of the cities, this Brussels one was also famous for having a sound and light show at the Grand Place. However, the famous show has also been cancelled for obvious reasons though you can see the decorated tree also from the comfort of your own home via installed webcam at the Grand Place. I guess we will have to wait for the next year to have the beautiful cheer like in the picture below.
One of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe is definitely the one in Zagreb, Croatia. Having been voted for as the best Christmas market in Europe for several years in a row, Advent Zagreb will still this year be a bit different than before. And though there will not be usual stalls and numerous events, the city is still beautifully decorated and many of the smaller events are still to take place, strictly abiding the sanitary rules. You can see the whole program here. However, with the pandemic situation changing fast, do keep in mind that changes are possible.
And though it may seem like the Christmas spirit is downsized with all the cancellations of the Christmas markets magic and restrictions of hanging out with our friends and family, there is always one thing to remember – Christmas is the time of year to connect with your loved ones on a deeper level and remember all the things you are grateful for in your life. And, as lame as it sounds, the true Christmas spirit we carry in our hearts and it can’t be broken – though of course, like everyone, I truly hope that by next year everything goes back to normal and we can again enjoy Christmas markets in their full glory!