Bratwurst in a bun, washed down with mulled wine.
A brass band, a gingerbread man and a spot of Christmas shopping under the stars.
For hundreds of years, German Christmas markets have symbolised the joy and happiness of the festive season and millions of tourists flock there every year to have a taste of it.
But this year the outdoor market, a tradition that began in the early 1300s, will sit idle, without a fairy light to be seen.
“You can see and feel that the mood is very low,” Juergen Amann the head of Cologne Tourism told the ABC.
“The people are fed up with the situation.”
Normally in December, 5 million people flock to Cologne alone to visit the city’s Christmas markets, bringing with them an economic boost for the region.
This year none of the seven large markets, or any of the smaller ones, will open there, a reality being replicated across the country.
Germany, once seen as a European leader in the fight against COVID-19, has faltered and less than 10 days out from Christmas will be locked down again.
A spot of Christmas shopping isn’t even on the cards.
All non-essential shops will be shut, along with schools. They’ll join bars, restaurants and leisure facilities that have already had to close their doors.
What went wrong?
The country has set new records in the number of confirmed cases and deaths in recent weeks.
According to Ralph Hertwig, a professor in psychology from the Leopoldina Academy of Sciences, every three minutes one German is dying of or with COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the country’s coronavirus death toll rose by 500 to reach over 22,000, continuing a worrying trend upward that began at the start of November and is likely to get worse over Christmas according to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency.
“That of course is a signal of an enormous catastrophe at which we find ourselves at this point,” Professor Hetwig told the ABC, saying a number of things had gone wrong since the containment of the virus in the spring.
Professor Hetwig believes the surge in cases is a consequence of a number of factors, including a growing complacency among a “fatigued” population and mixed messaging from politicians who believed a partial or soft lockdown would be enough.
Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks with schools remaining open as well as stores, and that has been partly blamed for continuing to fuel infections.
“I would have wished for lighter measures, but due to Christmas shopping, the number of social contacts has risen considerably,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists on Sunday following a meeting with leaders of the country’s 16 federal states.
“They will have a broad impact on many, many people. We are aware of that.
“But they will have an effect to stop our health system from being overwhelmed.”
The German population, including Dr Amann, are seen to be widely accepting that the Government had little option but for a subdued Christmas, although it doesn’t make it any easier.
“There is no choice at the moment,” Dr Amann said of the lockdown.
What will Christmas look like?
With the exception of Christmas, the number of people allowed to meet indoors will remain restricted to five, not including children under 14.
All non-essential shops will be shut, alongside hair salons and schools, and workplaces will be asked to shut or have their employees work from home.
The sale of fireworks will also be banned ahead of New Year’s Eve.
Author Oliver Potzch draws heavily on German tradition in his novels and revels in a visit to a small Christmas market with his family in December.
“I love it, they’re drinking hot wine, listening to all the music, but if there is one good thing in this current situation I think this is a little bit like Christmas should be,” he said, referring to the calmness that comes when everything is shut.
“I’m telling my family that for us every day is now the 25th, now I think we have 60 days of the 25th of December.”
Some Christmas markets have reinvented themselves as drive-throughs, but sitting in a car is not the same as being rugged up under a stary sky with hot wine in hand.
Dr Amann thinks the last time Christmas markets were silenced in Germany was in World War II, but hopes they will return with gusto in 2021.
“We are ready for the restart as soon as possible, that’s all we can do at the moment,” he said.
Despite the gloom hanging over the festive period, some positive news emerged on Tuesday, with Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn announcing Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could be rolled out as soon as Christmas pending EU approval.