How do Germans celebrate Christmas?
Germany has a great number of Christmas traditions which have been passed down from generation to generation over the decades and centuries. Some traditions may be very familiar to you and may even be tradition on your own household, while others may seem completely foreign and a bit odd.
Here are a few of the most popular (starting from the most common tradition and ending at the most frightening):
- Christmas Trees: Germans typically decorate a Christmas tree with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, and place it in the living room.
- Advent Calendars: Germans begin the countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar, which typically consists of 24 windows or doors, one of which is opened each day in December leading up to Christmas.
- Nativity Scenes: Germans often set up nativity scenes in their homes, depicting the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.
Christmas Markets: German Christmas markets, also known as Weihnachtsmarkt, are a popular holiday tradition in Germany and other German-speaking countries. These markets are held in cities and towns throughout the country and are usually open from late November until just before Christmas. They offer a wide variety of food, drinks, gifts, and festive decorations, and are a popular place for families to gather, socialize, and celebrate the holiday season.
At a German Christmas market, visitors can find vendors selling traditional German foods such as mulled wine (Glühwein), roasted almonds, gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen), and sausages (Wurst). There are also vendors selling handmade gifts and crafts, such as wooden toys, glass ornaments, and holiday decorations. The markets are often surrounded by a festive atmosphere, with music, lights, and a traditional Christmas atmosphere.
German Christmas markets are not just a place to buy gifts and food, but they are also an important part of the cultural heritage of Germany and a chance for people to come together and celebrate the holiday season. These markets have become a popular attraction for tourists from around the world, and have inspired similar markets in many other countries.
- Christmas Eve Dinner: On the evening of December 24th, families typically gather for a special dinner to celebrate Christmas Eve. This dinner often includes traditional dishes such as roasted goose or carp, along with festive drinks like mulled wine or Glühwein.
Glühwein: Glühwein is a traditional German drink made from red wine, sugar, and a mixture of spices. The wine is heated and served warm, and is a popular drink during the Christmas season, particularly at German Christmas markets. The name Glühwein is derived from the German word "glühen," which means "to glow," referring to the warm and comforting feeling that the drink provides. The spices used to flavor Glühwein can vary, but typically include cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg, and sometimes orange peel and vanilla. The drink is often served in a special ceramic mug or a glass with a handle, and is enjoyed by many people in Germany and beyond as a festive and comforting drink during the holiday season.
- St. Nicholas: On December 6th, St. Nicholas visits children and leaves small gifts in their shoes.
- German Christmas Pickle: The German Christmas Pickle is a holiday tradition that involves hiding a small glass pickle ornament in the branches of a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle is said to receive an extra present or good fortune for the coming year.
Krampus: A Germanic folklore creature that is associated with the Christmas season. He is said to be a half-goat, half-demon figure who acts as a companion to St. Nicholas, punishing children who have misbehaved. While St. Nicholas gives gifts to good children, Krampus is said to punish naughty children by whipping them with branches or even carrying them off in a basket to his lair.