Christmas markets draw big crowds

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It’s high season for Christmas markets in Norway, with Oslo alone offering dozens of them selling everything from handicrafts to moose burgers. They’re not all characterized by peace and goodwill, though: The organizers of Oslo’s biggest market in recent years got caught in a major conflict with city officials, and ended up having to move from the city’s prime location.

This year's Christmas market in Oslo's prime downtown location was set up over the protests of those who ran it earlier. Now they've moved to another location, at Youngstorget. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

This year’s Christmas market in Oslo’s prime downtown location at Spikersuppa was set up over the protests of those who ran it earlier. Now they’ve moved to another location, at Youngstorget. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The market dubbed Jul i Vinterland (Christmas in Winterland) that’s now in place at Spikersuppa along Karl Johans Gate  features new vendors this year and a new operator, Lund Gruppen Arrangement (LGA). Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the group that had run the markets at Spikersuppa and City Hall Plaza for nine years, Event Produksjon AS, lost its bid in new competition with LGA and another would-be market-maker.

Event Produksjon was unhappy as were some of its its longtime vendors who claimed that LGA demanded “horrible” rates and terms in order to set up shop at Spikersuppa, which encompasses the downtown ice rink located between the National Theater and Parliament. After earlier paying a flat rate of NOK 46,500 including VAT for a stand, Lund’s rate model demanded 10 percent of sales, with a minimum of NOK 50,000 plus NOK 15,000 to cover the costs of such things as security, sanitation, Internet and electricity.

The former Christmas market operators scoffed over their successor's ferris wheel, but it was drawing crowds on its opening weekend. The city's ice rink remains popular as well. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The former Christmas market operators scoffed over their successor’s ferris wheel, but it was drawing crowds on its opening weekend. The city’s ice rink remains popular as well. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

LGA, which has run a Christmas market at Kongeparken outside Stavanger since 1997, denied that its effective lease rates were too high and it opened last weekend with many vendors in place. Event Produksjon’s Oslo Julemarked and some of its unhappy vendors blamed the city for creating a conflict over the Christmas market and complained through a lawyer about the city’s decision to award the market concession to LGA. Aftenposten reported that the city itself had boosted its lease rate for the Spikersuppa site, from NOK 200,000 to NOK 325,000.

Now many of Event’s vendors have set up shop(s) several blocks away at Youngstorget instead, while other markets are popping up over the next few weeks elsewhere around the capital: at Tøyen, along the river Akerselva, at the Oslo City Museum in Frogner, at the farm known as Nedre Foss Gård, at Skjerven gård in Maridalen and even at the American Lutheran Church this weekend. Other markets are on offer in surburban Sandvika and at Bærums Verk.

One of the biggest, and usually most crowded, pre-Christmas market was gearing to open this weekend and next at the Norsk Folkemuseet on Bygdøy. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that it attracted around 30,000 people during its two weekends of operation last year, 12,000 of them on the first day alone. Several of the historic houses and other buildings at the museum are also decorated in line with their times, with the market and the museum based on how Christmas was celebrated in years past.

Meanwhile the Jul i Vinterland market downtown features a ferris wheel for the first time and even a talking moose. Its rival Oslo Julemarked, which has ridiculed the ferris wheel, could boast of being opened last weekend at its new site by Oslo’s popular former mayor Fabian Stang, and featuring 50 vendors selling crafts and food. Conflicts seemed to be set aside as vendors hoped that their cash registers would be ringing, along with jingle bells.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund