A stadium full of Christmas carols: An FC Union Berlin Tradition

Some go to church on Christmas Eve, but more than 20,000 FC Union Berlin fans pack their stadium, candles in hand, to sing “Oh Christmas Tree”. It was the 11th year in a row that supporters gathered for what has become a brilliantly unique Christmas tradition known as Weihnachtssingen, which is easy to celebrate given the club’s red and white colours.

It may be unconventional, but the city of Berlin celebrates an unconventional, hard-working group of athletes. FC Union Berlin was formed by iron workers more than a century ago, and during the Cold War it became a symbol of resistance against the East German government. Today, FC Union remain beloved by tens or thousands of Berliners.

FC Union has faced decades of tough times during political and economic upheaval. In the late 1960s, when it was an East German team, it developed a bitter rivalry with Stasi-sponsored Dynamo Berlin. Even after reunification, the team faced financial ruin repeatedly, but its fans refuse to give up. And on the 24th of December, they bring their spirit to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei (Stadium near the old forester’s house), which 2,300 supporters helped build with their own hands. For many, this club is family. This tradition didn’t start with 20,000 in the stands on Christmas Eve, but according to supporter it’s an experience that can’t be beat. [Learn more about FC Union Berlin and their holiday tradition at NPR. Posted by Eric]

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