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At German Christmas Markets, Despite the Tight Budgets, Everyone Has a Smile on Their Face

WorldAt German Christmas Markets, Despite the Tight Budgets, Everyone Has a Smile on Their Face

Wooden nativity scenes, candles, toys for kids, gingerbread cookies in all shapes and sizes, sausages, and mulled wine served in hand-painted mugs.

The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest and most legendary Christmas markets, and there are few locations in the nation more joyful over the holiday season.

The red and white roofed booths, rich and spicy smells of goodies, and mulled wine-enhanced happiness are all back this year to lure locals and visitors to Nuremberg’s centre square after the Covid epidemic snatched two festive seasons. According to city historians, the market has been held regularly since at least 1628, with brief interruptions during the epidemic and for many years immediately after World War II.

Ursula Köbl, a 73-year-old resident, said, “It’s not really a regular Christmas without the market.” The market was originally closed in 2020 to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

However, merchants already anticipate that they will not do as well as they did in 2019 before the market officially shuts on Christmas Eve at 2 p.m. More than a dozen merchants abandoned their prime locations for the first time in modern times due to rising rents and a lack of available workers, creating holes in the row of booths that appeared like cracks in a happy grin.

Once a minor detail on the social calendar, Germany’s 500-plus Christmas markets are now considered barometers of the country’s mood. It was unclear if the economic situation and the impending energy crisis would dampen spirits before they reopened at the end of November, but now that they have, many of them are operating again without any Covid limitations.

New energy-saving regulations in Germany have resulted in the darkening of towns and cities by banning the illumination of outdoor advertising, public buildings, and even monuments. Markets are like little temporary towns built out of fabric, wood, and strings of energy-efficient LED lights. There are encouraging preliminary signs that they may be succeeding, albeit with caveats. There may be less money being spent at the stands, but the audiences are bigger than ever.

Mr. König noted that the Christkindlesmarkt is an integral element of Nuremberg’s culture and that the city’s finances had taken a hit due to the spread of the coronavirus.

An estimated 2.2 million customers visited the market in 2019, spending an estimated 180 million euros ($191 million). You should expect a lesser haul this year. The Christmas market has been bustling with locals and visitors alike despite the absence of the usual live music stage. The latter group is mostly comprised of fellow Germans and Americans.

“We’ve observed people are particularly ready to get out and interact in groups again after the hiatus put on us by Covid,” said Patrick Arens, vice president of a trade organisation representing merchants at Christmas markets throughout Germany. At the Dortmund Christmas market, Mr. Arens operates a mulled wine stand.

While socialising with pals, Ms. Köbl enthusiastically agreed. Even though it’s freezing outside, she encouraged people to “come out and interact and forget about chilly feet.” Even though the price of mulled wine had increased to €4 (about $4.25) from €3.50 in 2019, she still intended to have at least one glass to warm up.

Although not all German Christmas markets have made the same decision, Mr. König and other municipal managers have opted not to scale down this year’s celebrations due to the energy shortage caused by Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. He claimed that LED lights have been in use in the city for some time and that outside heating had been mostly outlawed since 2008.

The Nuremberg market has a more traditional feel thanks to a number of laws that have been in place for a long time. For instance, the main market is not permitted to play recorded music, and no goods not produced in the Nuremberg area are allowed to be sold there.

If you want to be a vendor, you need to apply in February, and the wait list is often in the dozens. A children-specific Christmas market with smaller counters and a fancy merry-go-round has been a tradition since 1999.

According to the market’s manager, Marco von Dobschütz-Dietl, this year was the first time in the market’s contemporary history that 20 merchants cancelled due to excessive expenses, personnel shortages, and worries of coronavirus.

For the last three decades, Klaus Schrödel, 59, has been a regular at the market, where he sells zwetschgenmännla, the ubiquitous good-luck representations formed of thin wire and prunes. He considers his four- to five-week stints tending a stand in the plaza a pastime, as do many natives of Nuremberg. He and his wife devote most of the year to making the unusual trinkets, and they take time off from their normal employment in order to sell them at the December market.

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