Celebrating Christmas In Germany
This article was provided by our good friends, the staff of craftideas.info in Germany.
The Christmas season seems to start already in October in the stores but at home it begins in November when certain preparations need to be made before December and the first advent arrives. Crafting individual and personal advent calendars for the kids is very popular as well as binding our own advent wreaths with fresh greenery and then decorating them with dried natural items such as pinecones, dried apple and orange slices, cinnamon sticks, etc… You will find an advent wreath in most traditional homes. In some areas, you will also see large advent wreath “wheels” hanging on the front porch. These are very large wreaths and are meant to be seen from further away. These get lit on Sundays just as the smaller indoor versions do. For those who do not have time to make their own wreaths, the flower shops all have festive advent exibitions before the first advent where you can also buy lovely wreaths and centerpieces for the home.
And in the kitchen the baking season begins in November. Cookies such as Zimtsterne, Vanillekipferl, Spekulatius and Lebkuchen are the traditional cookies. Small kids love to help cutting out simple sugar cookies and decorating them with colorful sprinkles. Here are a couple of our favorite German Christmas Cookie Recipes . We usually bake about 10 varieties of cookies here, each year with some different cookies.
Just before the first advent Sunday, most of the large cities open their Christmas markets. These usually last until Christmas and in some cities, even until the New Year. Most big city Christmas markets are located at market squares where the city hall can be found or at the main cathedral. That gives the Christmas markets a historical and medieval feeling as well and makes a gorgeous background scenery. The aroma of regional dishes and mulled wine fill the air and at the markets you can buy Christmas decorations and gifts and simply stroll through and enjoy the atmosphere. Often musicians are playing Christmas carols to add to the festive feeling.
Small towns and villages normally have a Christmas market on one weekend in December and are quite charming and quaint. At these Christmas markets you will find lots of handmade crafts from the local residents of the towns and also delicious foods and baked goods to eat. In our area, many of the farms have lovely Christmas markets as well. These are usually a combination of an outdoor market but also there are stands set up in the barns or stalls selling handmade items and other gifts. These markets have a nice country feeling to them and the atmosphere is calm yet festive.
The 6th of December is an important day for the kids because is is Nikolaustag. From region to region, the traditions may vary but in general, on the night of the 5th of December before the kids go to bed, they place their cleaned shoes outside the door. Knecht Ruprecht assists Sankt Nikolaus with filling the shoes. He is normally dressed in a brown robe and carrying rods in his belt to give the bad children and a basket on his back full of sacks of tangerines, peanuts, spiced cookies and chocolate to give to the good children. The next morning the kids awaken to their surprises. Some homes “invite” Sankt Nikolaus to come and bring the kids their goodies and other locations, the kids go to the town and have to call for Nikolaus to come out. A town near where we live does that and the kids look forward to that every year.
In Germany many homes get decorated for Christmas already earlier in December. Crafting for the holidays is popular and one traditional and popular craft is the
Fröbelstern. These are used as decorations for windows and for the tree and are not as difficult to make as they seem. Follow the illustrated step-by-step tutorial to learn how to make one of these classic stars. Windows are filled with “Lichterbögen” which are lighted wooden arches. The wood area is usually a Christmas scene of some kind. Outdoors, many decorate their shrubs and small trees with white lights. It is a warm feeling going out for a walk on a snowy, cold and dark December evening and seeing all of the white lights decorating the homes and trees.
But… you will not find a Christmas tree in a German home until the 24th of December. Depending on the region of Germany you live in, the traditions also vary on how Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated. This is how our family and relatives celebrate Christmas: The father of the family decorates the tree and then closes the room off. The mother spends time cooking and preparing for Christmas Eve dinner. In the afternoon, the family goes to church service and during that time the “Christkind” arrives and brings gifts. The Christkind translates to “Christ Child” but is actually an angelic figure. Once the family arrives at home from church, they eat a small meal. About this time, it is slowly getting dark outdoors. Once the meal is finished the father lights the tree with real candles and the children can then enter the room. First the family sings Christmas songs together and read passages out of the bible and then afterwards, the children can open their gifts. Later that night the family goes to midnight church services.
The next two days are official holidays in Germany. There is not just one Christmas Day, but two. Gifts were already given to the kids on the 24th, so Christmas Day and the 2nd Christmas day are days to spend going to church and to spend with family and relatives. So much delicious food gets cooked for Christmas and the holidays are a joyful and merry experience each year.
The Christmas decorations and Christmas tree normally remain up until after the New Year. Since the tree just got decorated on the 24th, it would be a shame to take it down again a couple of days later.
New Years Eve is spent with family or friends and at midnight, many shoot off fireworks and light up the skies to celebrate the new year. It is the only time of the year when private citizens are allowed to shoot fireworks in this country.