Union Berlin's Stadion An der Alten Försterei fills to capacity for the club's annual Christmas carol service on the night of 23 December. - © imago
Union Berlin's Stadion An der Alten Försterei fills to capacity for the club's annual Christmas carol service on the night of 23 December. - © imago
bundesliga

Union Berlin mark festive season with Christmas carol tradition

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the now annual tradition of carols by candelight at Bundesliga newcomers Union Berlin’s intimate Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

The ground, located in the Köpenick neighbourhood of Berlin, fills to capacity on 23 December with the masses warming the cold night air with festive songs.

The event – which has been mimicked by several other clubs, including Borussia Dortmund – originally began when a group of dissatisfied Union fans broke into the stadium and started a mini concert to cheer themselves up ahead of the festive period.

"After the tough Hinrunde, the atmosphere in those days was melancholic," recalled 'EisernTorsten', who took to an old club internet forum in December 2003 to suggest Union fans should gather at the stadium for a festive sing-along.

"I thought, it can't go like this into the new year. And because we have a long tradition of singing old Union songs half an hour before kick-off on the opposite stand at the centre circle, I wondered, why not have such a meeting of singers at the end of the year?"

Incredibly, since that night in 2003, the event snowballed into the huge occasion it is today, with 28,500 fans filling the Berlin-based stadium each year. Music is provided by a school choir, while several of the event organisers bring musical instruments to accompany the carols.

"We understood: without a proper PA system, the next time it wouldn't work. It was too confusing," recalled Torsten after the debut rendition in 2003. Though it was Christmas Eve, fans returned in the morning to collect the garbage and clean up the stadium."

This year's congregation was the first since Union's maiden promotion to the Bundesliga. Urs Fischer's side claimed 20 points from their first 17 matches at Germany's top table, and rank 11th at the halfway stage. They recorded a famous 1-0 victory over city rivals Hertha along the way, and sit directly above them in the standings. 'Siehst du Hertha, so wird das gemacht" (That's how you do it, Hertha), chorused the Union masses alongside classics such as 'O Christmas Tree' and 'Silent Night'.

Nowadays, supporters can also enjoy a steady supply of Bratwurst and Glühwein, and purchase festive club souvenirs.

Watch: Highlights of Union's historic win over Hertha

Union resume their Bundesliga adventure with a trip to leaders RB Leipzig on 19 January 2020. They travel to the west of the German capital to face Hertha in the second edition of the Berlin derby on 21 March.

As the fans sang during their off-beat Christmas party, "Let's cause a shock, and rock the Bundesliga!"