In Germany, Christmas markets closed but still open

At nightfall, this “drive-in” attracts dozens of vehicles whose occupants, warm and patient, wait patiently for a masked employee wearing the essential Christmas hat toque at their window to slide them a menu offering between other pancakes, sausages and hot chestnuts.

Once the order has been placed, they can still stop in front of the candy stand to treat themselves to a cotton candy or a gingerbread heart.

“We are inspired by fast food chains,” smiles Patrick Schmidt, 31, market organizer and owner of the Zollhaus Landshut restaurant. “We wanted to recreate a bit of the Christmas atmosphere, even if it is more complicated this year”.

” Hard time ”

For this restaurateur, the market above all helps his business through “a difficult period”.

Since the beginning of November, restaurants and bars have been closed in Germany to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Only the sale of take-out food is authorized.

The restrictions, which have just been extended until the beginning of January, have not spared the 3,000 Christmas markets held each year. A significant shortfall for most large German cities, which canceled them for fear of further contamination.

These markets, which appeared in the 15th century, were born in Germany under the name of “Saint Nicolas market” and have remained an institution there: some 160 million people visit them each year, with a customer spending an average of 18 euros there, according to the German Exhibitors’ Union.

This tradition has since spread beyond Germanic lands and has in the meantime conquered much of the planet.

So, so that the Christmas spirit – and the economic benefits – don’t disappear completely, initiatives are popping up across the country.

In Berlin, the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district wants to divide the stalls into small groups, over several streets, although food and drinks cannot be consumed on site.

Also canceled, the Nuremberg Christmas market, famous all over the world, was keen to satisfy fans and virtually organized its traditional opening ceremony.

500 cars in one day

And in the north-west of Germany, the town of Kalkar also offers a Christmas drive-through market.

Open since mid-November, the one in Landshut has made the headlines of the local press and attracts a lot of people.

“Last Saturday, we welcomed 500 cars”, welcomes Patrick Schmidt. Mulled wine, served in thermos, is not the only thing that attracts customers, who often come with their families.

“I’m here to support restaurants, because I miss them,” says Markus Renneke, 55, who came with his wife. “And besides, I think it’s a great idea”.

At the wheel of her white car covered with artificial snow, Sandra, accompanied by her teenage daughter, enjoys rediscovering a bit of the “atmosphere” of the Christmas markets.

“You have to have a little time in front of you, and the stalls selling something other than food are lacking, but that’s okay,” she assures, as a waitress brings her two sausage sandwiches. grilled.

His “starving” daughter cannot resist: she begins to devour hers before the checkout, at the end of the drive-in, the last step before returning to confine herself to the house with or without mulled wine.

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