This year, the traditional continental Christmas markets in town squares and city centres across the UK will become smaller and less European.
The Covid pandemic means that 10,000 professional full-time stall owners have left the industry.
Brexit has made importing goods and people into the UK more complicated.
Anja Manke operates 23 stalls that make up the German Christmas Market at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester.
For more than two decades, she has traveled back and forth between Bremen and England, and regarded it as her second hometown.
But this year is different. Organizing logistics takes several weeks, and each product and person involved requires a license.
“Usually we come to work because we are citizens of a certain part of the world,” Anya said. “First of all, this is a lot of paperwork.”
Therefore, she made the difficult choice not to bring a moose head that is usually placed on top of a German beer bar, and changed some products, including using a British company to import German beer.
Overall, there will be fewer European stall owners in Manchester this year. “It’s very painful,” Anya said. She believes that many people did not return to the industry because they had to live on savings during the pandemic, and the rising Covid interest rates in Europe made traders nervous.
Anja’s company is registered in England, so she is eligible for a loan repayment.
On this Christmas Eve. She has shared information and navigation systems with her European counterparts. “We feel like family now,” she said.
The BBC contacted more than a dozen city councils about the annual Christmas market.only Leeds has cancelled its market Exchanged their lighting installations with Coventry as part of their year as a cultural capital.
The two largest in Manchester and Birmingham are now open, and the two in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bournemouth, Oxford, York, Bristol, Nottingham, Newcastle and Exeter are now open. But almost all booths and people flow restrictions are less.
But in Belfast, the situation is different. Its location across the Irish Sea and sharing the EU land border with the Republic means that transportation and trade are more direct.
“It’s really easy for European traders to come to Northern Ireland,” said Alan Hartwell, head of Market Place Europe, which spans four British cities.
“Bureaucracy is coming [in] Let British and Scottish businessmen come here. In England and Scotland, Allen saw his regular European merchants withdraw. In Belfast, he lost his former British and Scottish merchants.
One is Markus Kochem-a self-proclaimed “Mr. Riesling” who is his favorite gluhwein for the special festivals in the Moselle Valley.
He spent 10 weeks sorting out his paperwork, and the shortage of drivers and pallets in Germany gave him additional challenges.
As a result, Marcus withdrew from the Scottish market and only chose Northern Ireland. “Because here is the backing, it is easier to reach people,” he explained. “But I am very happy to be here, I missed it.”
As if this were not enough, there are other restrictions besides Brexit.
“We have three different levels of Covid requirements in England, Scotland and Wales. This is a nightmare,” Allen said.
He felt that the entire system was set up for large companies and did not support smaller independent companies.
Brexit, Covid, and the loss of 10,000 full-time professional traders cost the big market that runs around the clock.
But for the small activities of some small vendors, this is good news.
Kelsey Thompson runs Henigan’s Bar on the outskirts of Bolton. She decided to open an evening market in the bar to increase traffic on quiet days.
“We are hosting a Christmas decoration party with all employees to prepare for it,” she said.
Kelsey was shocked by how many locals had applied to open booths, which meant she was able to provide “all kinds of resin gifts, candles, [to] Novelty earrings”.
Local parents Emma Simpson started bottling sweet gifts as a hobby.
“I signed up here for two Mondays in December, and there were two more at the local cricket club,” she said. “I have to order more to meet the order. My kitchen is full of boxes!”
Emma thinks the smaller market will do well this Christmas. “A lot of people want to keep things local this year. It’s great for me, I really like it.”
For everyone interviewed by the BBC-Anya, Allen, Marcus, Kelsey, and Emma-have a common theme: the love of Christmas and the real motivation to make 2021 more special.
Everyone was surprised and assured of the enthusiasm of its market-no matter how big or small.