Christmas in Germany - Customs and Traditions

Let's start a road map of customs and traditions across countries over the next few weeks. We decided to start in Germany. Join us on this tour!

The Advent Days

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In this cold country, Christmas is the most important season of the year. 

With a singular weather that is felt at this time of the year throughout the country, this season is sensed with more intensity. It usually snows a few days before Christmas, so the streets and parks become white. That cold starts to feel early. We can thus say that, this season is lived with more bright and emotion. It is also when the whole family gathers and celebrates the date. Normally these traditions are the same across the country, but in some families these may be different. 

Christmas in Germany is not limited only to Christmas Eve and the two following days of holiday. This holiday season begins weeks earlier, more precisely four Sundays before Christmas Eve – in the first Sunday of the Advent.

As soon as this season arises it’s time to begin Christmas decorations at home. All attentions are focused on the crown/Advent wreath. This crown is made of pine branches and contains 4 candles. The idea is to light one candle every Sunday in December. To this early time before Christmas it’s called the time of advent.

Moreover, it's in this time of Advent that the Germans meet with friends and family to together make cookies, ginger bread and drink mulled wine. Also at work environments as offices and companies, the advent leaves its mark: there are parties and dinners related with this theme, even before the important festive days. 

Christmas markets

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Christmas markets are very common and have an important role during this season and in many cities in Germany. There is at least one Christmas market in almost every city. It’s on the first Sunday of Advent that these traditional markets open doors. They have numerous stands festively decorated. The mulled wine, several Christmas culinary specialties, Christmas tree decorations, candles and much more are present on each corner. The Nuremberg town market is the most famous German Christmas market, but also many other cities such as Dresden or Aachen are known for their beautiful Christmas Markets.

The Advent Calendar

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The Advent calendar is considered a must-have for the time of Advent, especially and not also for children, as for many adults. This is a calendar with 24 doors, where the purpose is to go opening one by one from December 1st until Christmas Day. It can still be added little surprises to these windows that will sweeten the days until the arrival of the most important day.

St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas is a special day throughout the holiday’s season, when children's boots and shoes are filled with little gifts and sweats. This tradition dates back to the legendary St. Nicholas. In Turkey, he was considered a particularly merciful saint. It says that he gave everything he had to the poor and children. This patron saint of children is traditionally remembered on December 6th. However, only well behaved children are rewarded by St. Nicholas.

Christmas Eve

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The Christmas Eve presents itself after passing the days of advents. The four weeks are lived with enthusiasm. It is through Advent and Christmas markets that mulled wine (Glühwein) is drunk, cookies are eaten and all Christmas shopping’s made. All houses are involved in lights and decorations leave their boxes after being 1 year packed.

Christmas Eve at last! The culmination of the Christmas season for them. December 24th is not an official holiday, which means that most shops are still open till 2 PM. The Germans will be able to ultimate the final presents and last minute shopping or have some ingredients for the big Christmas dinner. Strangely, for us, Portuguese, the Christmas tree is set and decorated in family on the 24th, as well as a crib, while dinner is being prepared in the kitchen. The gastronomic traditions vary. Traditions and opinions changes depend on the region and family customs. In many families, there is a festivity, which usually has roasted goose and cookies or the traditional Christmas carp. In other families, the big party is postponed to the first or second day of Christmas and on Christmas Eve there is only a fast food meal like sausages with potato salad. Children dine before so they don’t have to wait too long over the night’s confusion which is the opening of gifts. Some families have the tradition to read stories and sing together, before sharing and opening the gifts. After these agitated moments, it’s time to go to Midnight Mass – especially for Catholics.

The Christmas Day

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In most countries, December 25th is the height of Christmas. In Germany, they celebrate these days without hassle: at home, enjoying all the delicious foods with the unconditional presence of the family. The two official holidays are also to visit relatives and friends and to end the Christmas season as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

Were you aware of these customs?


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