As many of you know I’m German, born and raised in Bavaria and moved to the US almost 16 years ago. I miss my family and friends back at home tremendous, especially during this time of the year. One thing that keeps the memories alive and that I would like to share with my readers as well is how we celebrate Christmas in Germany.
A lot of those traditions I still try to keep with my kids here; I always like to hear different traditions and if you have something unique, feel free to leave comments, I read every single one and enjoy reading them….
Christmas in Germany
In my home town in Germany the major celebration of Christmas takes place on the evening of December 24. This evening is called “Heiligabend” (‘Holy Eve’) rather than Christmas Eve.
In preparation for “Weihnachten” (Christmas), many German families celebrate Advent. This is a time of religious preparation for the arrival of “das Christkind” (the Christ Child). Traditional advent activities include the Adventskranz (Advent wreath), which is set up four weeks before Christmas, the four Sunday’s before Christmas to be exact. Four candles adorn the wreath, and a new one is lit each Sunday, until all four candles are lit; you know Christmas is near. Families often sing Christmas carols as they gather around the wreath to celebrate the preparation and Christmas season.
Children also enjoy the Christmas calendar, which contains 24 doors (one for each day of December leading up to Christmas). Children open one door each day, and find a chocolate or little gifts. I always make my own Advent Calendar each year and come up with fun neat ideas for my kids to experience the Advent season and the count down to Christmas.
Each year, millions flock to Nuremberg for the Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas market). Visitors enjoy booths, entertainment, and food. Famous Christmas-time treats include Lebkuchen (gingerbread), stollen (fruit cake), and marzipan (confectionery often made into sweets) as well a Gluhwein.
In addition to the BIG Christkindlesmarkt, each town has their own Christmas market, they are smaller but a lot of fun and a tradition to visit a Christmas Market each Sunday during Advent. I miss walking through the snow and smelling all the baked goodies and Christmas smells in the streets.
The Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree) is usually put up in the afternoon of December 24. Tradition is a real tree, but I’m sure in years past the “plastic” tree appears more and more. I remember our tree sat outside on the porch for what seemed to me weeks… and on Christmas Eve, my Mom and dad, after they finished their Christmas shopping, which traditionally in my family wasn’t even started till that day either, they pulled the tree in and started to decorate it. Our living room was closed up and no one but Mom and Dad and the Christmas Angel was allowed to be in the room. It was always sooo secretive and exciting to know that the “Christmas Angel” was in the room decorating with Mom and Dad…lol
At home in Germany, it is the Christmas Angel that delivers our presents, St. Nikolaus comes on December 6th not on Christmas Eve; it’s the Angel that does all the Christmas traditions for us. I keep that tradition alive with my children here in the US. We have a Christmas Angel deliver presents; Christmas in Germany is a BIG, I mean BIG religious holiday; celebrated with the traditional Christmas Story in mind; the Baby Jesus is born and we will celebrate his arrival. The reason we have the Christmas Angel deliver our presents, because the Christmas Angel is the one that delivers the news about Baby Jesus’s arrival.
Traditionally, on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) my mom and dad always served a simple meal, usually Potato Salad and Wurstchecn (hot dogs), us kids waited all day, knowing that the Christmas Angel was in the house, we couldn’t sit through a full fletched sit-down dinner, nor would my mom be able to spend hours in the kitchen, she needed to help the Christmas Angel;
Each Christmas Eve my sister and grandparents went to Christmas Mas for Children, which usually is a traditional “Krippen Spiel” (Christmas play) and once church was over, we walked home waiting for dinner; very impatiently waiting, may I add. We weren’t allowed into the living room until we finished dinner; so dinner always went like “Forget about chewing just swallow” kind of type; us kids were antsy to see what the Christmas Angel had brought. Once dinner was over and we finally heard that faint little bell, which was our clue that the Christmas Angel had left the building, mom and dad allowed us to enter the living room.
Walking into the room was always like a little “miracle”, breathtaking as a little girl to say the least. You walk into a room, beautifully decorated with lots of lights, candles and quiet Christmas music playing in the background and there they are, our presents, it was finally time for the “Bescherung” (“time for exchanging gifts”). This was also the first time we saw our Christmas tree, all decorated and lit.
At home Heiligabend, is celebrated only by the close family. However in Germany we have 2 additional Christmas Holidays called First (Dec 25) and Second (Dec 26) days of Christmas. Each Christmas day we go visit one side of the family (usually Christmas Day 1 we go visit all of my mom’s family at my grandma’s house and on Christmas day 2 we go visit all of my dad’s family at that his mom’s house) and have another big Christmas dinner (traditionally we have roasted duck, potato dumplings, salad and some kind of dessert cake) and exchange presents with the grandparents, aunts and uncles that haven’t brought gifts over for us to open on Christmas Eve.
It is so much fun, because family really gets to spend time together and enjoy the holidays; it’s a peacefully time of the year. Lots of cookie baking and story reading along with Christmas Caroling going on throughout the Advent Season.
I remember, all this, like it was yesterday, it is such a wonderful memory and yet it is so different here in the US. I hope you enjoyed my Christmas in Germany post and would love to hear how you celebrate Christmas.
Frohe Weihnachten …… Merry Christmas