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Christmas in Germany: German Customs & Traditions

Updated on April 4, 2017
melbel profile image

Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth. She loves adventures and continues to explore new places.

Tiny shops dot the streets in many towns where gifts can be purchased for Christmas.
Tiny shops dot the streets in many towns where gifts can be purchased for Christmas.

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.

Germany is known for its wonderful Christmas markets. Each year people flock from all over the world to browse the wonderful shops that offer Christmas goods.
Germany is known for its wonderful Christmas markets. Each year people flock from all over the world to browse the wonderful shops that offer Christmas goods.

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.

Advent

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!

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    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 

      5 years ago from The Shire

      This is lovely. Maybe someday I will travel to Germany and see for myself! :-)

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 

      5 years ago from US

      My mother has a German background, with my great-grandfather coming over from Germany. Thus, this hub has great meaning for me. Thank you for sharing.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      5 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      In 2008 I visited my son (a retired marine) who was stationed in Stuttgart Germany, and I found it to be such an interesting and beautiful country. Having toured through some of the villages, I can imagine how lovely it must be at Christmas.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My family is mostly of German heritage and obviously my maternal grandparents kept some of those customs with regard to decorating the Christmas tree. If you wish to read a fun hub, read the one about How NOT to decorate a Christmas tree. True story! Ha! I have only been to Germany once and it was in the Spring and early summer. It must be wonderful to be there during the Christmas season! Thanks for sharing your impressions.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany

      Yes, celebrating Christmas in Germany is not to be missed. My first Christmas in Germany was awesome. As what you have written, the children was not allowed to see the Christmas tree before dinner time which was 6 or 7 pm. Me included as it was also to surprise me. The children had to sing or recite a poem (which they were prepared of) after dinner and before receiving our gifts. It´s a wonderful time at Christmas in Germany. Thanks for reminding me. Have a happy day!

    • melbel profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Palen 

      7 years ago from Midwest USA

      Rosemarie, that sounds like it was a lot of fun. It must have taken a while to select a poem, but hopefully you selected meaningful ones. It really sounds like a fun memory -- thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      Rosemarie Apsel 

      7 years ago

      This is a well written account of Christmas in Germany. I should add that, when I was a child in the 50's, we were required to recite a Christmas poem before we got any gifts. But even that was fun.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      I liked reading this! Some nice information here for Christmas in a foreign country!

    • melbel profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Palen 

      8 years ago from Midwest USA

      I am glad that you enjoyed the hub. We always got advent calendars as well, but the store bought chocolate kind. And I don't think I ever did the calendar honestly. I would always eat a couple of days ahead of time or not start the calendar until the middle of the month. Which I don't understand because I could have just gotten my chocolate fix from other sources... the chocolate in the advent calendars we got wasn't that good anyway... but it made the wait for Christmas a little bit more fun.

      Thank you for your comment!

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Since I am of German orgin I love this hub reminds me of my childhood espcially the Advent Calendar.

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