Communal Carol singing

Christmas carols in a sports stadium? Traditional singing during Advent is arriving in new venues in Germany.

picture-alliance/ZB - Weihnachten, Christmas
picture-alliance/ZB - Weihnachten, Christmas picture-alliance/ZB - Weihnachten, Christmas

Admittedly, it’s a little late – the very last minute, in fact. When all the presents have been packed, the Christmas meal prepared and the stars are hanging from the tree, Schauspielhaus Bochum is inviting local people to its “Christmas Carol Refresher Course”. The gathering at the theatre on the evening of the 23 December is aimed at those who are no longer very sure of the words of “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”, “Oh Tannenbaum” or “Vom Himmel hoch”. At least, that is how the organisers have been playfully promoting the event, which aims not so much to offer instruction, but to entertain and get everyone in the mood for the holiday.

The theatre strikes a chord with its choral singing event. The Germans love Christmas and they do so not least because of its conviviality. The songs are simply part of it, but they have often been forgotten – perhaps also because some people’s relationship with the church and the religious origins of the holiday has faded. And that is also why the event that is held every year before Christmas Eve at the stadium of the Union Berlin soccer club should not necessarily be seen as a spiritual occasion. In any event, it has nothing to do with football.

In 2003 a few dozen fans of the club met at the halfway line in the stadium for a pre-Christmas get-together. They drank mulled wine, ate traditional Christmas treats – and sang. The group of singers grew in size over the following years. More than 10,000 people joined in the Christmas singing in 2010. Whole families came and friends took the opportunity to begin the holidays together. The gathering has meanwhile become an annual appointment for many and the improvised happening has been transformed into a professionally organized, but still festive and down-to-earth event. A priest reads the Christmas story, a school choir sets the pace and a brass band provides a festive background. The fan club distributes song books and candles free of charge. Last time, 22,500 people sang along.