Snow, music, glühwein(generally hot mulled wine), crisp night air, roasted chestnuts, decorated trees. Christmas in Germany sounds much like Christmas in the states. I was able to observe the customs and traditions around a German Christmas and I thought it was very interesting. I thought I would share today a little bit about the way Germany celebrates Christmas.
In Germany, Christmas begins around December 1st. People start decorating and baking and preparing for the months festivities. Around the various towns and cities they hold Christmas markets. These markets are generally outdoors and require you to bundle up warm to admire the many crafts people have on display. There is no shortage of food at these events. They are full of local specialties such as sausages,soups,crepes,sugared nuts, fruits,roasted chestnuts, lebkuchen(a German baked item that resembles gingerbread), stollen(a German sweet bread cake that resembles fruitcake), and many more. They serve hot drinks such as a mulled red or white wine known as glühwein or a kinder(children’s) punch. These are often served in coffee cups decorated with the holiday theme and perhaps the year and location of the event. You pay a pfand or deposit on the cup and if you choose to keep it you just don’t get your money back.
In Germany they have an Advent Calender. This calendar is used to count down the days until Christmas. It starts the first Sunday after November 26th. This calendar often has a little window for each day and inside is a special treat or small toy or a Christmas picture. They sell these in the store often as Lego, Playmobil, and other children’s favorite themes, but some parents opt to make their own. Also, on the first day of Advent they take a Holly wreath and put four candles on it. They light one candle each Sunday up until Christmas.
They often have the three kings come to the door and sing Christmas carols.
In Germany, they also believe in a version of St. Nicholaus or our version of Santa. He comes on December 6th with presents for the good children. They also believe in Christkindl, who is Christ Child’s messenger. This is the one who brings the children presents on Christmas eve. The next two days Christmas and the day after Christmas which is 2nd Christmas or St. Stephens Day is time for family. Businesses are closed and you spend time going for walks in the snow, sledding, sitting around the fire, eating, and enjoying your family. This part is much like Christmas in the states.
New Years or Sylvester takes place on January 1st and is complete with family dinners, festivities and parties. You will also find the neighborhood lit up with fireworks as every house sets off their own. It’s quite a loud event.
Holiday festivities don’t end until after January 6th. This is when the Heilige Drei Konige or the Three Wise men or Three Kings visit. On the eve of January 6th people inscribe in chalk the initials C+M+B(Caspar/Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) and the date over their door. This is supposed to protect their house and home.
Customs, traditions, and holidays are different around the world. It’s always fascinating to learn the history of these events and how they have evolved over the years and been adopted and adapted. Even as a mere spectator it’s captivating.
I think as you journey on your own personal trek around the world you will find that when it comes to these things, the discoveries are endless.