Did you ever know that stadiums can be used not only for playing sports but also for….Christmas singing?
I did not have a clue till the moment when I visited an Advent sing - along at the stadium of the football club Union Berlin on the day before Christmas Eve. As a fan of sports and sport infrastructure, I was thrilled by this cultural event with the stadium cosy and homey Christmas atmosphere, as far as it was also my first Christmas to celebrate in Europe.
1.FC Union Berlin is a professional German association football club based in Köpenick, Berlin. The home ground stadium by the Old Forester's House (stadion an der alten Försterei) is the largest single-purpose football stadium in the German capital. The stadium became internationally famous for concerts and events like the annual Christmas Carols Event (Weihnachtssingen). The football club is distinguished by a special closeness to its fans, which has welded them together into the «Union Family».
On an Advent wintry night in 2003 the team had just lost their last game before the winter break, the club slipped to the bottom of league and the mood of the Union Family was at its nadir, but the fans didn’t want to say goodbye to each other without some Christmas joy. So the long-time 89 merry Union Berlin fans had an idea that the Union family could warm its collective heart in these hard times with the traditional carols of the festival of brotherly love. They hatched a plan and broke into the Union Berlin’s stadium, drank mulled wine and sang Christmas carols. And this is how this Christmas tradition started.
Thus, every year the club arranges a Christmas Carol concert that regularly sells out their 28 000 capacity stadium. Many fans argue that the concert is more popular than the club. In 2013 the stadium was filled to the brim for the first time, so that the organisers decided to control the influx through the sale of tickets. Since then, the event has been sold out quickly and the proceeds go to the club’s younger generation. The Christmas songfest is a part of the effort to maintain the link to fans and fan culture in a commercial age of pro football. The sing-along was not launched as a marketing event by the club, but at the initiative of the fans themselves.
The event has long since expanded beyond the boundaries of Berlin and the club. Fans of other German football clubs have adopted the Christmas sing-along. Even in the German city, where I do my voluntary service, at the MDCC Arena every year fans of the FC Magdeburg and all interested persons gather to sing Christmas Carols together with mulled wine, candlelight and songbook in hand and feel this great cozy Christmas mood.