Christmas in Germany: German Customs & Traditions
Christmas is celebrated differently around the world. In Germany, Christmas is a very important holiday and thus a large celebration.
There are many different parts that make up the Christmas season in Germany which include St. Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag in German) as well as St. Nicolas Eve, Advent, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Many of the elements that make up the holiday traditions in this country are common throughout Europe, some of which may be familiar to those in the US who celebrate what they may consider an American-style Christmas.
If you're looking to travel to Europe to experience a beautiful and awe-inspiring holiday season, look no further than Germany. Christmas here is still a magical holiday where gifts can be purchased in tiny shops that line the streets -- very much unlike the overly commercialized American counterpart.
St. Nicholas Eve & Day
The Christmas season starts well before December 25th, making the holiday stretch nearly all the way through the month of December. St. Nicholas Day, is celebrated on December 6th and kicks off the Christmas season. On the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, children leave their shoes outside to be filled candy and treats from St. Nicholas. If the child was bad, he or she would receive sticks in their shoes.
In Germany, children use Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. There are many different forms of Advent calendars. Some have pictures to represent each day of the month and some have little doors for each day.
Behind each door is a small gift or chocolate. Another Advent tradition is the placement of holly wreaths on tables decorated with four red candles. One candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas and the last candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Tree
The idea of the Christmas tree actually came from Germany, although many traditions having to do with the Christmas tree differ in Germany than in the US. For example, children in Germany are not to help decorate the Christmas tree. The parents usually decorate the tree with fruit, nuts, candy, lights, and gifts are placed under the tree. The decorating of the tree occurs on Christmas Eve while the children stay in another room. When the parents complete the tree, they ring a bell for the children to come and open gifts and celebrate by singing carols.
The idea of the Christmas tree is very important in German culture. Many Christmas trees can be found in public squares and shopping centers. These trees are usually beautifully lit and decorated for passersby to enjoy.
The Christmas Feast
The dinners served on Christmas Eve and Christmas day are made up of the traditional boar's head (or increasingly more common, pork,) duck, sausage, goose, marzipan, lebkuchen, and many different types of bread and sweets. It is said that those who do not fill their stomachs on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons, therefore many people will eat as much as they can. Because of this, Christmas Eve is commonly referred to as dickbauch, which means "fat stomach." Because of the wonderful feast, Christmas in Germany is not to be missed!