LivingTravel7 German Christmas traditions

7 German Christmas traditions

Many of the Christmas customs that Americans recognize as their own began in the old world. From the Christmas tree to the Christmas market, everything is German. Learn how Germany keeps its beloved Christmas traditions alive and well.

Christmas tree

The custom of placing a decorated and illuminated Christmas tree originated in the 16th century in Germany. Back then, the little fir trees were decorated with apples, walnuts and paper flowers on December 24, and legend has it that church reformer Martin Luther was the first to put candles on his Christmas tree.

One afternoon, on the way home, Luther was admiring the moon-covered trees. She wanted to recreate that magical moment for her family at home, so she put little wax candles on the Christmas fir trees in her living room.

Germany Christmas Markets

In almost every German city, people celebrate the holiday season with at least one (or a dozen) trips to a traditional Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas market). These seasonal events, dating back to the 15th century, originally provided practical food and supplies for the cold winter season, but the markets soon became a beloved holiday tradition and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. The city of Dresden prides itself on having the oldest Christmas market in Germany, dating back to 1434.

German mulled wine

A great treat for cold winter days is mulled wine, a traditional Christmas drink from Germany. This spicy and spicy wine is called Glühwein in German (literally “sparkling wine”); You can get it in all German Christmas markets.

Advent wreath

Many Germans celebrate the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas with a lit Advent wreath. Every Sunday in December, a new candle is lit in the wreath and many families sing Christmas carols and eat cookies or a piece of Christmas Stollen.

The Advent wreath was invented by Johann Hinrich Wichern, a German shepherd, who founded an orphanage in Hamburg in 1833. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, children asked him every day if Christmas had come. To make the wait easier, Wichern devised his magical Christmas countdown. He created his first Advent wreath with an old cartwheel and small candles.

German Christmas Stollen

The German Stollen, a loaf-shaped fruit cake made from yeast, water, and flour, is traditionally eaten at Christmas in Germany. The treat, which was first baked in Dresden in the 14th century, is filled with walnuts, raisins, candied citrus fruits and spices, and its shape is said to represent Baby Jesus in diapers.

December 6: Nikolaus Day

If you are spending December 6 in Germany, be sure to leave your shoes outside the door. Santa Claus, called Nikolaus or Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man”) in Germany, visits tonight to fill his shoes with sweets, oranges, nuts, cookies and small figures of Santa Claus made of chocolate. Bad boys and girls should be on the lookout for Krampus.

Good night

Unlike Christmas in North America, the highlight of the Christmas season in Germany is Easter on December 24. German children generally cannot see the illuminated Christmas tree until tonight with parents secretly decorating it with ornaments and lights. Gifts are exchanged, and many people visit a Christmas mass. A traditional German Christmas dinner is Weihnachtsgans ( goose) often served with meatballs and red cabbage.

December 25 and 26 are federal holidays and the Christmas markets are packed. Shops and offices, however, are closed. Families focus on the most important things in life, like visiting friends, relaxing, watching a Christmas movie, and eating good food.

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