Christmas in Germany - the actual days & traditions
The 24th is the most important day for Germans.
Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! メリクリスマス！Joyeux Noël! Feliz Natal! Buon Natale!
First be aware that the shops close on the 24th at noon (smaller ones) or in the afternoon, as the 24th is the most important day. It is called the „Heilige Abend“ (translates to holy evening / night). Make sure to plan your shopping as the shops won’t open until the 27th!
Der Heilige Abend
As per traditional practice the Christmas tree is decorated on the 24th. But depending on the family tradition also earlier. In some families the children are only allowed to see the tree after the presents were deliverd by the „Christkind“ or the „Weihnachtsmann“.
The „Christkind“ is imagined as a fairy-like figure or angel, dressed in white with blond curls, a crown and angel wings. But nowadays the „Weihnachtsmann“ (Father Christmas) is very popular, too, adapted from the US.
The presents are usually not displayed before the „Heilige Abend“, but only delivered that evening / afternoon. Usually the children are waiting in their rooms as to not disturb the delivery, while we parents place the gifts underneath the Christmas tree. Then the little bell rings, the children are allowed to come. In our family we put on Christmas music and light the Christmas tree. Before the children are allowed to unwrap the presents, we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Again every family has its own tradition depening on religious beliefs.
Some families do the presents in the afternoon, while others do it before dinner or even after dinner.
Christmas is very much about family & friends in Germany. The shops are closed on the 25th and 26th, as well. You stay at home, have your family/friends come over or go to visit your family/friends. These are very quiet days in Germany.
Families with smaller children go to the church in the afternoon (Kindermesse) at around 4 p.m. Depending on the church there will be a nativity play often performed by children.
Very famous is the „Mitternachtsmesse“ (midnight mass) at around 22 p.m.
Depening on the family you have an easier-to-prepare meal on Christmas eve follwed by the more traditional ones in the days after. The easier versions include potato salad and sausages, raclette, fondue or carp. The full traditional meal consists usually of roasted goose, turkey or duck accompanied by „Kartoffelknödel“ (potato dumplings) or „Serviettenknödel“ (bread dumplings) and red cabbage.
Germans love to bake & eat Plätzchen (Christmas cookies, „Lebkuchen“ (soft ginger bread) and „Stollen“ for Christmas.
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Traditionally Germans have an advents wreath starting with the first Advent Sunday. This is when they also start to decorate their home with evergreen branches, fairy lights, stars, a nativity scene (called a “Krippe”) and other wooden decorations, candles and alike. Here is a link to where to get yours.
The Christmas tree is purchased around the middle of December.
November 2018 by Kira Neumann
This blog post is a personal recommendation and based on personal experience. It has been prepared with the greatest possible care and does not claim to be correct, complete or up-to-date.“ Picture credit: pixels.rawpixel.com