Europe’s governments are postponing painful decisions about the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and few are willing to say exactly what will be allowed and many already warn that there could be many things that will not.
“It’s a huge headache,” a French government minister told the world, pointing to the “impossible choice” between a “socially unsustainable” ban on family gatherings and the medical imperative not to further fuel the spread of the coronavirus.
In a speech in late October announcing France’s second shutdown, President Emmanuel Macron said that if the pandemic were brought under control, the government would “see closer to the time when we can expect to celebrate the holiday season.” in family”. As with most countries, that time is clearly not yet.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said last week that non-essential stores would likely reopen on December 1 and that closing rules should be relaxed to allow for some form of family Christmas, though “certainly not as usual.” Parties “with dozens of people” would not be allowed, he said, and the government would not decide until late November to what extent holiday travel within France would be possible during that period.
The Christmas trees, at least, can go on sale from November 20, the government has announced, but it seems unlikely that the restaurants will reopen before mid-January and there is still no certainty that the churches will be able to celebrate Christmas mass.
France’s lockdown rules do not currently allow people to invite people into their homes. A recent french poll found that 53% of respondents were willing to give up a family Christmas to prevent infection, 75% planned to see fewer people, and 70% were even willing to stay locked up entirely.
When Germany Returning to a “blocking light” earlier this month, Angela Merkel expressed hope that “we could afford more freedoms at Christmas” if citizens stick to the strict rules during November.
But when the chancellor meets with the leaders of the country’s 16 states next week, they are expected to agree on new regulations that will ban seasonal holidays until Good night, the night of December 24, when Germans traditionally gather for Christmas celebrations.
“If I’m honest, I don’t see big weddings, big birthdays or even big Christmas parties in December or any other time this winter,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said recently.
Some Christmas markets, including Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, have already been canceled, while others, like Dresden’s Striezelmarkt, are working on plans to allow their traditional mulled wine and gingerbread extravaganza to go ahead in a streamlined way.
Fearful of overloading hospitals, authorities in several cities and municipalities are considering whether to continue The Netherlands by banning fireworks on New Year’s Eve, prompting Die Welt newspaper to complain that those demanding a moratorium on firecrackers “are ignoring the troubled soul of Germany.”
Spain remains in a state of emergency, with nighttime curfews still in effect. Health Minister Salvador Illa called a meeting of regional health experts to make plans to make Christmas as safe as possible, but warned people not to get their hopes up.
“I think all Spaniards know that this Christmas is not going to be like the previous one,” he said Wednesday. “We cannot continue as if nothing had happened.”
The government of the Madrid region is looking into the idea of using pharmacies to run a large number of Covid tests before and after Christmas to allow people to gather together safely. Any such move would have to be approved by Illa’s ministry.
On Thursday, the Catalan government announced that bars and restaurants in the region, which have been closed for a month, will partially reopen starting Monday, and set out a four-phase plan for the coming weeks.
The curfew in Catalonia from 22:00 to 06:00 will remain during Christmas and New Years. However, families can meet in groups of up to 10 people starting December 21. Meetings are currently limited to groups of six.
In Italy, where Christmas markets have also been banned and travel between regions is strictly restricted, a decree is being prepared for the festive season, with possible measures including the reopening of shops and restaurants as of December 3, the extension of the touch National night curfew in one hour and Christmas dinners are allowed but only with very close relatives.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte assured the children last week that their gifts would be delivered because Santa Claus, or Santa Claus, was not subject to travel restrictions.
But Christmas “wasn’t just about shopping, giving gifts and giving a boost to the economy,” he said. Whatever the religious faith of the people, it was “certainly also a time of private spiritual worship”, but not “a private spiritual reflection with many other people.”
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