Stille nacht: Covid and the ghost of Christmas 2020

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Annually, there are between 2500 and 3000 Christmas markets in Germany. While pur-ported to be rooted in century‐old tradition, the current concept of the markets, shaped in the 1930s, gradually transformed from primarily mercantile operations to experiential events. The experiential dimension is a collection of visual, auditory, and olfactory components that create a compound sensory response: the ‘Christmas atmosphere’. The prevalence of COVID‐19 meant that traditional Christmas markets were largely absent from the festive calendar in Germany in 2020, disrupting the usual sensory experiences associated with these events. A review of the online presence showed that augmented markets and virtual reality were subsequently utilized in an attempt to re‐create the experience and the ambience of the traditional markets, but had limited interactivity with many of the senses. We explore to what extent these multiple‐sensory components may have been lost during the Christmas period of 2020 due to the COVID‐19‐induced transition from the traditional multisensory live market to a predominantly online experience, and highlight problems which arise through the documentation of such complex intangible heritage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3081-3097
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Early online date04 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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