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Unchristian times?: Christmas markets start increasingly earlier in the year

Unchristian times? : Christmas markets start increasingly earlier in the year

Similar to in Bonn, most Christmas markets don’t open until the end of November. But in some German cities they are starting this year earlier than ever before. There is criticism from the church.

Bonn and Duisburg are not only somewhat geographically separated, but they also seem to be located in different time zones, at least in the figurative sense when it comes to Christmas.

Whereas the Christmas market in Bonn traditionally starts on 22 November, the Christmas market in Duisburg city centre already starts this Thursday. This is extremely early – no fewer than 17 days before the first Sunday in Advent. This is the earliest ever and as expected, criticism of it comes from the Church.

But the cities are defending their actions. “The Duisburg Christmas Market will open this year on 14 November, one day before the Christmas markets in Essen and Oberhausen. The opening hours of the Christmas markets are mainly a result of the great demand from visitors,” says a project manager from the responsible urban company in Duisburg.

Duisburg takes church holidays into consideration during opening hours of the Christmas market

The date had been agreed with church representatives and, when setting the opening hours, “Totensonntag”, a religious festival on the Sunday before the first advent when the dead are remembered, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were taken into account, according to Duisburg Kontor GmbH. "Nevertheless, we try to meet the needs of our retailers, city centre trade and above all the demand of the visitors". Also in Essen, the Christmas market will be closed on Remembrance Day (17 November this year) and “Totensonntag” (24 November).

Essen and Duisburg are not alone in starting their city-centre Christmas markets so early. In Austria, which is extremely Catholic, the markets are also starting early. For example, the Viennese Christmas dream on Rathausplatz begins on 15 November.

In Essen-Steele, there has even been a Christmas market in one city district since 2 November. Also in Berlin, where the big markets only open after “Totensonntag”, but then mostly remain open until the New Year, there has been the so-called Winter World in Potsdamer Platz since 2 November, which is hardly distinguishable from a Christmas market.

The “Bayreuth Winter Village” already opened on 17 October. They proudly call themselves the first Christmas hang-out “in the whole of Germany and perhaps also in Europe”.

Churches criticise the early opening of Christmas markets

Nevertheless, in the ever earlier begin to Christmas markets the churches perceive a sell-off of an important Christian feast. Ulrich Lota, press officer of the diocese of Essen, says that the markets are above all a marketing instrument to lure people into the city in times of online trade. “It is important for devout Christians, however, to point out that with all the commerce and consumption that Christmas is not some cultural celebration of light at the end of the year, but the feast of the birth of Jesus.” However, it is not up to us to point a finger and forbid other people something they enjoy.

As early as 21 November – the Thursday before “Totensonntag” – the Christmas Markets in Freiburg, Bochum and Dortmund will open, but also the Salzburg Christmas Market in Austria and the Zürich markets in Switzerland such as the Christmas village at Bellevue".

In most cities, however, the Christmas markets only open after “Totensonntag”. For example, the markets in Kassel, Frankfurt/Main, Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover, Bielefeld, Potsdam, Cottbus, Rostock and Lübeck will open on 25 November, with mulled wine and all the trappings.

In Erfurt, Weimar and Leipzig, the festive cheer will start on 26 November, and in Munich at Marienplatz and in Stuttgart on 27 November. The Dresden Striezelmarkt only begins on the Wednesday before the first Sunday in Advent (27.11). The Mainz Christmas Market opens on 28 November. The famous Nuremberg Christmas Market starts on 29 November, the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent.

(Original text; Gregor Tholl, dpa, translation John Chandler)