It’s almost 10 years since fans broke into the Union stadium for a Christmas reunion. Over the years this meeting has grown to the world’s largest Christmas carol singing taking place in a stadium. Yesterday saw yet another record broken.
There’s no Christmas event quite like this one. It started in 2003, when 89 people broke into the Alte Försterei stadium in Berlin. The idea was simple – to meet before Christmas in the Union Berlin family circle. Union is one of Germany’s so called ‘cult-clubs’ that are famous for unique identity and atmosphere surrounding them – no surprise an event like this took place here…
A year later there were 500 people there (then legally as the initial idea was widely approved), doubled in 2005 at 1,000 which was doubled in 2006 and so on – the event keeps growing year after year, with only exception being one season of stadium reconstruction.
In 2010 it reached 10,000, a number then seen as hard to believe by some. But last year some 15-18,000 came, setting an even more impressive record that – as is tradition – lasted just a year.
Yesterday, one day before Christmas Eve, there were 22,500 people inside the Alte Försterei - more than the venue holds. This time attendees had to gather on the pitch as well as there wasn’t enough room on the terraces.
As years went by and crowd was growing thicker, the event started getting more commercialized with car dealers providing official vehicles and yesterday seeing celebrity appearances. But the idea is still very simple – to meet, have a laugh, drink some mulled wine and sing together, with light provided only by thousands of candles, giving it an intimate ambience very much unlike a regular stadium event. Well, almost only by candles as some fans brought flares inside, as also seems to be tradition.