For Germans, Christmas markets are a beloved fixture. Maybe next year.

No groups of friends gripping mugs of steaming red wine spiced with cinnamon and cloves crowding Rothenburg’s medieval market square, or beneath Cologne’s towering cathedral. No brass brands playing carols before Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace. No stars shining from the eaves of Seiffen’s wooden huts.

And in Nuremberg, the magical figure known as the Christkind did not spread her golden wings and welcome the world to the annual Christmas market.

Germany this December doesn’t feel right.

The coronavirus is muting Christmas celebrations around the world. But the absence of seasonal merriment and public cheer is particularly palpable, and painful, in Germany’s marketplaces and squares, largely devoid of their beloved Christmas markets because of the pandemic.

“When you walk through the streets of Munich or Nuremberg these days, without the bright lights and good cheer, without the smell of hot mulled wine — I just miss all of that,” said Oliver Pötzsch, 50, an author whose novels draw from his Bavarian family’s history.

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.

But as December drew near and the country’s number of new coronavirus infections remained dangerously high, cities across the country began canceling their markets, despite pledges made earlier in the year to do everything to keep them open.

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