Christmas market in Strasbourg: is the town hall hunting for the crucifix? [OPINION]


Not all Christmas lists are gifts. And magic can rhyme with fury if zealous city officials confuse municipal police and morality police. This, some say, is what is happening in Strasbourg, where the famous Christkindelsmarik, the “Market of the Child Jesus” in Alsatian (25 November-15 January). The event attracts two million visitors each year. The metropolis of Bas-Rhin even baptizes it “Strasbourg Capital of Christmas”. The formula is a bit surprising, but it clearly underlines what is at stake. A whole rather kitsch neo-folklore from Christianity with a Germanic influence mixes with an atmosphere gemütlicher and the collective fervor specific to the great German fairs, a phenomenon once widespread in the plains of Champagne. In the light of the stars, a whole world is in turmoil, despite the winter or rather thanks to it.

This 2022 edition is entitled "Let's invent a new story". Is this the reason why the municipality decides to enact new standards? Jeanne Barseghian, EELV mayor of Strasbourg, passes for an activist of the environmental doxa. At the beginning of October, exhibitors received a list of 350 products and items prohibited from sale.

Verboten champagne or tartiflette, just like headbands or ponchos! Go find out why. The town hall then distinguishes between food products "authorized with reservations" and non-food products "prohibited with reservations". It's subtle but the first box seems less restrictive than the second. If you find gingerbread liqueur or hot beer there, there are also samosas, Turkish delights and halva, not typically Alsatian.

In the other category, the most criticized, unfolds an inventory à la Prévert, where ashtrays are familiar with bottle openers and toothpaste with cleaning products. In the middle of this mess appears the crucifix (also called "JC's cross"), isolated and lost between the Christmas tie and the water globe (with the snow when you shake it...). This list triggered a controversy. The opposition accused the green town hall of wanting to do "the police of good taste" and seek to "erasing the Christian origin" of Christmas.

And yet, if we are all Alsatians, are these elected officials green and against us?Not that easy. The story is not comparable to previous buzz triggered by agitated locals, whether hostile to the Christmas tree or the Tour de France. One cannot simply be scandalized that the sale of crucifixes is subject to conditions, which for a Christian holiday is obviously paradoxical.

It is much less if we take note of the intention of the municipal team - which is to combine authenticity and quality. Questioned by 20 Minutes, Guillaume Libsig, deputy mayor of Strasbourg, no longer wants on the side “amusement park, open-air supermarket for tourists”.

And to specify: “We don't want, for example, poor quality 2-euro Christmas balls where Strasbourg is misspelled and which break with the frost. We want beautiful products so that the event is well perceived. A craftsman who makes a beautiful nativity scene, yes, beautiful quality crucifixes, souvenirs linked to the primary identity of Christmas, which is indeed Christianity, yes! But the santons, the crosses made by thousands of copies and delivered by container from China, no. »

All is not played, at the time when these lines are written. For products authorized "subject to reservations", the organizers will have “a discussion with the exhibitors to understand “where does the product come from? "Why is he here?" "", further details Guillaume Libsig. The list will be approved "early 2023", he adds.

The controversy could encourage the Church to reinvest the social and commercial field deserted for so long. Two questions emerge for her. The first is not new: how to re-sacralize the Christmas party? The second is more in terms of the injunctions to produce less, better and closer. The Church could wonder how to sort out these places of pilgrimage, as in Lourdes, where so many products flow whose quality, provenance and above all the social conditions in which they are made are verified.

Louis Daufresne

source: 20 minutes

This article is published from Selection of the day.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Leonid Andronov

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