The Munich Christkindlmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest and biggest Christmas markets, has been canceled for the second consecutive year as another coronavirus wave sweeps through the country.
It is the largest German Christmas market to be canceled as the events struggle to survive the country’s fourth virus surge after being mostly shuttered last year.
“It is bitter news that I have today for all Munich residents, and especially for the stall owners,” said Mayor Dieter Reiter. “However, the extreme situation in our hospitals and exponentially rising infection rates leave me no other choice.”
Germans have gathered at outdoor markets in the weeks before Christmas since the 14th century, when vendors first built their stands in city centers to sell their wares to people coming from church services. They offer an array of foods, artisanal gifts and other provisions for the coming celebrations and the long winter months.
Germany’s roughly 3,000 Christmas markets are an important economic boon to many communities. Local restaurants, breweries, bakeries and artisans depend on the annual holiday fairs for a substantial amount of their income.
The Munich market is famed for its stalls offering traditional gingerbread, grilled sausages, mulled wine and hand-painted trinkets, according to Lonely Planet.
A combination of factors has propelled Germany’s latest virus surge, among them wintry temperatures, a slow rollout of booster vaccines and an even more pronounced spike in neighboring Eastern European nations like the Czech Republic.
Experts say the unvaccinated are driving the wave of cases that are filling up hospitals across Germany.
For the Christmas markets that remain open, only people vaccinated against the coronavirus or fully recovered from a previous infection can fully participate, Reuters reported. Unvaccinated people can partake in some limited activities, such as listening to carols.