German Christmas Traditions
The pre-Christmas period is one of the most beautiful times of the year for many people: baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree and meeting with the family. Christmas also includes customs that recur every year and vary from country to country. In this guide we will take a closer look at the German Christmas traditions and everything that belongs to them.
Christmas - the feast of love & comfort
Every year, the Germans look forward to the Christmas season anew: gingerbread, cookies, numerous gifts, a lavishly decorated Christmas tree or a nativity scene – for Germans, all this is part of a traditional Christmas celebration. But in many families, Christmas is all about celebrating the essentials: Spending time with your loved ones. You can read about the customs and rites behind the German Christmas traditions in our Christmas guide.
What is the difference: Christmas or Christmas Eve? Santa Claus or Christkind?
Christmas Eve or Christmas? When do Germans celebrate and what do they actually celebrate? Christmas is on December 25th and reminds us in the Christian faith of the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Eve is on December 24 and in many German families, gifts are given on this evening. Traditionally, the “Christkind” brings the presents in Germany. The name Christkind can be translated as “Christ child”. Martin Luther invented the Christkind, an angelic figure with blond hair and wings. But the Christkind is competing with Santa Claus. Santa Claus or “der Weihnachtsmann” was already mentioned in the well-known, German song "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann" (Tomorrow Santa Claus comes) in 1835.
What does the Christmas tree stand for & when was it first set up?
Even in the Middle Ages, green in the middle of winter was a sign of new life. At that time, fir or mistletoe branches were hung up to celebrate Christmas. However, the branches were also supposed to help drive away evil spirits. According to the legend, the first Christmas tree stood in Freiburg's Heilig-Geist-Spital in 1419. It was hung with gingerbread, apples and nuts, for which extra small bags were made. Around 1800 it became fashionable to put up a Christmas tree in the living room in Germany. Initially, the trees hung down from the ceiling when there was not enough room in the living room. It was not until the 19th century that Christmas tree candles made the eyes of all family members shine. Also, in the 19th century the Christmas tree came to Britain through the royal family.
A real Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree?
In most German households it is common practice to put up Nordmann firs, silver firs or blue spruces at Christmas. However, more and more Germans are considering buying an artificial Christmas tree. Real fir trees have a number of disadvantages that artificial Christmas trees do not have. For one thing, real Christmas trees needle after a short time. In addition, the Christmas tree has to be disposed of again. This means that the remaining needles are spread all over the house. Artificial Christmas trees, on the other hand, do not needle and can even be used for several years. This is not only easy on the wallet, but also on the environment. In addition, you can store the artificial Christmas tree in a space-savinging way in your cellar.
What do Christmas baubles symbolize & where does the custom of hanging tinsel on the tree come from?
Christmas tree balls originally remind us of the fruits on the tree of knowledge, from which Adam and Eve ate. As mentioned above, Christmas trees were first hung with apples, nuts and gingerbread. It was only in the course of time that the decoration of the Christmas tree became more versatile. About 150 years ago, Christmas tree decorations were made of cardboard, mostly in animal shapes that could be painted by children. It was only since glassblowers discovered the production of Christmas baubles for themselves, that fir trees began to be decorated with Christmas baubles. In addition to the classic Christmas tree decorations, wooden figures and sweets are not to be omitted.
Thin silver or golden metal strips belong in many households to a traditional Christmas tree in Germany. The custom of using tinsel dates back to the year 1878. At that time, Christmas trees were decorated with tinsel, which was used to symbolize icicles.
Christmas also includes the pre-Christmas period
Where does the tradition of the Advent wreath come from & what does it symbolize?
The classic Advent wreath often consists only of fir branches and four candles, that are lit one after another on the 4 Sundays before Christmas. Modern variants offer many different colors and shapes. The first Advent wreath dates back to the year 1833. In a children's home the children always wanted to know when Christmas was finally over. Then Johann Hinrich Wichern took a wagon wheel and attached 24 candles to it, one for each day from the first Advent until Christmas Eve. So, the first Advent wreath had 20 small and four large candles. For the four Sundays in Advent and every day one candle was lit so that the children knew how often they still had to sleep. On today's Advent wreaths there are usually four candles, one for each Advent.
24 little doors: The history of the Advent calendar
For many Germans, especially for children, the Advent calendar is also part of the time before Christmas. The original Advent calendar consisted of 24 candles and had a similar meaning as an Advent wreath. The first printed Advent calendars were sold at the beginning of the 20th century. It was not until after the Second World War that Advent calendars were developed with little doors to open, hiding surprises like chocolate behind them.
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German Christmas Traditions
The pre-Christmas period is one of the most beautiful times of the year for many people: baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree and meeting with the family....
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