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Cancelled Christmas markets: what will the festive season look like in Germany this year?

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

When it was first announced that Oktoberfest 2020 would be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Germans and tourists alike were sorely disappointed. With the recent news that many Christmas markets will also be called off this year, people are even more downhearted. Although the decision whether or not to go ahead with the markets ultimately comes down to each of Germany's federal states, there is a lot of pressure from the government for them to be cancelled. As such, Germany will feel a lot less festive this year.

A typical Christmas market in Germany. Photo: chriswanders via Pixabay

Around 160 million visits are made to Germany’s many Christmas markets each year, making the markets very beneficial when it comes to boosting the economy. Overall, they create a revenue of around 3 billion euros. Visitors to the market in Kassel, for example, add 18 million euros to the local economy, both by engaging directly with activities at the market itself and by spending money in other shops and paying for overnight stays.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a town in northern Bavaria, relies heavily upon the Christmas markets. Despite only having a population of 11,000, the town attracts 1.9 million visitors each year. However, like many German towns this year, it will not be able to benefit from the markets. Even those few markets that do go ahead will not bring in as many visitors as usual; there will be few tourists and many Germans will avoid the markets out of fear of catching the virus.

The cancellation of the Christmas markets is not only disappointing from a financial perspective, but also from a cultural one. Christmas markets have been a huge part of German culture for centuries, with the first “genuine” one taking place in Dresden in 1434. This will be the first time in 73 years that the Nuremberg Christmas market will not be taking place. A December without the markets does not feel like a German December at all.

In response to the virus, but with the desire to protect the festive spirit, some towns have decided to continue their markets online. Munich is one of the cities holding a virtual Christmas market this year. This will include videos and live streams of festivities such as carols, as well as the opportunity to buy most of the items that are usually found in the markets online, including decorations, food, and mulled wine.

Gingerbread hearts are a popular delicacy at the markets. Photo: Bing Images

Unfortunately, a virtual market is unable to reflect many of the reasons that people go to the Christmas markets in normal times; the magical ambience, the scent of Christmas in the air, the chance to sample delicious German delicacies and to enjoy the company of loved ones. Ultimately, however, the virtual markets will at least help to keep the festive spirit alive.

Although towns and cities across Germany know that cancelling the markets will upset many people, it seems widely accepted that the decision is in everyone’s best interest, as mass gatherings undoubtedly pose a high risk in terms of spreading the virus.

Experiencing an authentic German Christmas market is worthy of a top spot on any bucket list. Though they will sadly not take place in the same way this time around, check out's pick of Germany's best Christmas markets to get some inspiration for future visits.

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