Christmas Markets Are Beloved Tradition, but a Challenge to Protect

Source: The New York Times


A Christmas tree is illuminated at the Strasbourg Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, last month.CreditPatrick Hertzof/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — In France this year, the annual Strasbourg Christmas market opened under heavy security. Instead of the usual gleam of holiday decorations in the central square, dominated by a 100-foot pine tree, the authorities left it mostly bare — in case they needed to set up a field hospital.

Before anyone can reach the market, they must pass through one of the 15 checkpoints fortifying the center of the city. Vehicles are not allowed on the streets near the market, and the closest tram stops have been temporarily shut down.

At a time when terrorist attacks have become all too familiar, public spaces are no longer presumed to be safe, and that includes the ubiquitous Christmas markets that flourish across much of the Continent this time of year.

So when a truck careered into one of those markets in Berlin, 470 miles from Strasbourg, on Monday night, it was not clear whether terrorism was the motivation, but it was many people’s first thought.

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