Budapest Christmas market, Source: Advent Feast at the Basilica

Europe’s Christmas markets under the shadow of Covid-19

Europe’s Christmas markets under the shadow of Covid-19

Many have been cancelled, others are reinventing themselves in a smaller format, and a few have opened as usual with precautions in place

Rooted in Medieval German lands, the tradition of organizing street markets during the four weeks of Advent has since swept over most of Europe. So potent is its spell that no one could have imagined that the small wooden huts agleam with fairy lights and selling Christmas decorations, mulled wine, pretzels, bratwurst and gingerbread, can one day be gone.

But this day has come, alas. Faced with a tantalizing impossibility to ensure adequate social distancing for such type of congregations amid a raging pandemic, many European cities are half-heartedly cancelling Christmas fairs alongside other long-planned festivities. Others are scaling their events down, dispersing them all over the city (Luxembourg) or switching shopping and other activities to the virtual realm. And a minority have dared to go ahead full steam, but with epidemic prevention measures in place.

Cancellations and question marks

Among the traditional fairs that have already been cancelled are those in Nuremberg, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Cologne (Germany); Lyon, Paris and Strasbourg (France); markets in Prague, Vilnius and Tallinn (voted Best Christmas Market in Europe for 2019), Birmingham and London (‘Winter Wonderland’). The Christmas market in Trento, the “city of Christmas”, will not take place this year and other reputable Italian markets - in Bolzano, Cimego, Eggental, Glurns, and Gröden have also been called off.

‘Winter Wonders’, Brussels’ famous market on Grand-Place boasting 200 plus chalets, fairground attractions, a covered skating rink, a Christmas tree and sound-and-light show, will not be held due to the area’s high infection rate.

Christkindlmarkt on the Rathausplatz - Vienna’s largest and busiest market, hangs in the balance. It may or may not open on 7 December depending on the epidemiological situation. 

Named Best Christmas Market 2020 by European Best Destinations travel organization, Budapest’s Advent Feast at the Basilica planned to open on 20 November. The market prepared to feature 160 exhibitors, the largest 3D light paintings in Central Europe, a special gastronomic offer, 200 family and children's programmes, including a free ice rink, all spanned over 40 days, until 1 January.

Under the slogan “Love and safety” organizers aimed to take stringent epidemic prevention measures, including mandatory use of face masks, hand sanitizers and even disposable socks for skating rink users; as well as a thermal camera monitoring  the fair as a whole. But due to the rapidly detoriorating epidemiological situation, the market suffered a last minute cancellation, reports MTI. Organizing group, Budapest Festival and Tourism Center (BFTK), has launched a campaign to support the over 120 Hungarian craftsmen who would have sold their products at the fair. 



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