Much like the UK, Christmas in Germany is the most important time of year, a time when families come together to spend quality time feasting, drinking, and sharing gifts. Even if the exact sequence of the Christmas period may differ from family to family, there are some very German Christmas customs and traditions, which are not only practised in Germany, but around the world.
Today on homify, and with the help of our growing global community, we will commence our series on international Christmases, showcasing the traditions and customs that take part all around the world. So, without further ado, let's begin!
The Christmas spirit is in full swing long before Christmas Eve rolls around. Christmas begins in Germany at the beginning of Advent, which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas eve. This is when Germany comes alive with Christmas cheer, as their world famous Christmas markets begin, and homes begin to be decked out in Christmas decorations. Advent means 'coming' in Latin, representing the coming of Jesus into the world. This year, it began on November 30. The focus for Advent in Germany is on the Advent wreath with its four candles, with one candle blown out on each Sunday before Christmas. Advent also sees families come together to bake cookies, gingerbread and drink punch. Advent is also celebrated in offices and business around Germany, with boozy Christmas parties taking place in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Of course, the Advent calendar is a must have for the lead up to Christmas, for children and adults alike. For those who are unsure what an Advent calender is, it is a fun way to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. With 24 doors, one door is opened every day from December 1 until Christmas eve, each door hiding a small little treat that sweetens the time leading up to Christmas.
An important day during the holiday season in Germany is December 6th; St. Nicholas day. This is where children put a boot outside the front door on the night of December 5th, so St. Nicholas can leave gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time, checks up on the children to see if they have been good this past year. St. Nicholas is celebrated in such high regard as he is remembered as being an extremely generous and kind man. If the children have been bad, they will receive a tree branch instead of sweets and gifts!
As mentioned earlier, Christmas in Germany is known around the world for its famous Christmas markets, which are well and truly in full swing in cities and towns across Germany. These markets begin on the first Sunday of advent, and offer numerous festively decorated stalls and booths, mulled wine, culinary Christmas delights, punch, beer, Christmas tree ornaments, candles, and much more. The tradition of these markets dates way back to the 14th century. The most famous Christmas markets in Germany are said to be in the cities of Nuremberg, Dresden and Aachen.
Now that the celebration cheer has been sung for weeks, consuming too much mulled wine and baked treats, the Christmas shopping is out of the way, the mad rush has finally come to an end, and the last door on the advent calendar has been open, this must mean only one thing; its Christmas Eve! In Germany, Christmas Eve is not a holiday, so most shops are open until 2 p.m. If you are one to leave things until late, you can still rush around for gifts or last minute ingredients for the big Christmas dinner. So, what does Christmas dinner involve in Germany? This can vary greatly from region to region, family to family. For many, it involves roast goose and dumplings, or even roast carp. Christmas dinner is reserved for Christmas day, with traditional Christmas Eve dinner consisting of very German dishes such as sausages and potato salad. Many Christian Germans also go to midnight mass, celebrating the birth of Jesus.
As in most countries, December 25th in Germany is the biggest day in the holiday period—it's Christmas day! Now the huge Christmas feast can be devoured, and children can unwrap their gifts. Germans use this day to visit relatives and end the Christmas season with a bang, full of booze and food, much like we do here in the UK.
We hope you enjoyed reading about international Christmas traditions, and can see how easy it is to relate to the customs practised on a global scale. Next week, we will talk about the Spanish way of celebrating Christmas! Stay tuned.