Strasbourg: the Christmas market is back under the threat of Covid-19

Lhe month of December 2020 had been unusually gloomy in Strasbourg. The Alsatian capital, which usually sees more than two million visitors land for its Christmas market, had to give up the festivities because of Covid-19. This year, the scent of mulled wine and the comforting scent of gingerbread will once again invade the streets, from this Friday November 26th until December 26th.

The Christkindelsmärik is eagerly awaited by traders. “We feel that there is a desire. The trains are armored, the hotels too ”, rejoices to the Point Pierre Bardet, general manager of Vitrines de Strasbourg, the association of traders. But the pandemic is never far away. The threat looms again as the fifth wave settles in France, and in nearby Germany, Christmas markets like the one in Munich have been canceled. “I am not going to tell you that I did not have it in mind, that would be a lie”, recognizes Pierre Bardet.

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Physical distancing for chalets

Wearing a mask will therefore be compulsory everywhere in the aisles of the market, which were widened at the same time. The 300 chalets have been spread over nearly fifteen places to leave more space. A bad for a good, smiles the representative of the traders. “It will be more practical, sometimes we could not see anything and we were pushed by the crowd …” The sanitary pass, which was only to be requested in restaurant areas, could ultimately be compulsory to access the market, as indicated by the Minister. of Health Olivier Véran Thursday, November 25.

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Health security, but also anti-terrorism, the Christmas market having been the scene of an attack that killed five people in 2018. The police will always be widely mobilized, but no more checkpoints with systematic checks that made the locals flee. “Last year, we saw that the end of the bunkerization of the city center brought back local customers who no longer came,” applauds Pierre Bardet. The traders, reopened after confinement, had therefore saved the furniture.

“The most beautiful we have ever done”

It is especially hoteliers and restaurateurs, closed at the end of 2020, who have not been able to take advantage of this. “For December, the trend is rather good and reservations are returning rather well,” blows Pierre Sigel, president of the Union of Trades and Hospitality Industries (UMIH) of Bas-Rhin, despite a slight delay in the ignition “because people were waiting for confirmation”. “We are concerned about our German neighbors, who represent a large part of our clientele and could cancel their stay given the situation at home. “

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To attract visitors to Christkindelsmärik, the Vitrines de Strasbourg spent 600,000 euros – excluding the Christmas tree in Place Kléber, financed by the town hall – to install the equally famous illuminations in the streets of the city. “They will be able to discover three new great creations this year”, promises Pierre Bardet, who is convinced of it: “It will be the most beautiful Christmas market that we have ever done. “

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Mark Holland

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