So you think Christmas is the same in Germany because, well, it’s a Christian holiday! Wrong!
There are some differences which we found rather surprising:
- Christmas starts before Christmas
Here in USA we start Christmas season next day after Thanksgiving. But in Germany people start celebrating Christmas on the First Advent Sunday (which is 4 Sundays before Christmas).
In 2017, the four Advent Sundays are celebrated on 3 December, 10 December, 17 December and 24 December. Typically, families decorate An Advent wreath with 4 red candles. On every Advent Sunday, one more candle is lit until all candles are alight to announce the imminent birth of Christ. Advent calendars filled with sweets or chocolates are popular with children - now tradition all over the world. The first door is opened on the 1st December until the last and often biggest door is opened on the 24th of December.
2. The 6th of December
In Germany, especially in the Bavarian region, St. Nicholas Day (the 6th of December) is celebrated with a visit from St Nick. Children will put their clean shoes out the night before so that old St. Nick can fill them with goodies like gingerbread (lebkuchen) and chocolate.
According to the story, he has a golden book where he records all the good and bad things that children have done throughout the year.
3. Christmas Eve
On Christmas Eve, often only little food is eaten during the day as this is a fast day. The festive Christmas celebrations start already in the afternoon, when many families with children attend a festive children's mass at their local church. After mass, families celebrate at home, lighting the candles or lights on their Christmas tree for the first time.
4. Santa Clause Doesn’t Come at Christmas
Since while Santa Clause (Weihnachtsmann in German) may not come, Christkind (the Christ Child in English) is the gift bearer in Germany and throughout different parts of Europe. Be sure to check out these great Christmas gifts.
Christkind couldn’t look more different than Santa Claus though. He (or she) is usually depicted as a child and angel-like with curly blond hair. As with Santa Claus though, children never see Christkind in action (hopefully). It also should be said that the Weihnactsmann is becoming increasing more common as the gift bearer in Germany, much to the chagrin of some people. Slogans such as “We believe in the Christ Child, don’t give Santa Claus a chance” are common, especially in more religious parts of Germany, like Bavaria.
5. Christmas gifts are opened on Christmas Eve
Children in USA would be so jealous of children in Germany if they knew they got their presents a whole 12 hours earlier. Christkind comes in early evening of December 24th and presents are opened then instead of waiting until the morning of the 25th.
6. Christmas Goose instead of Turkey
A roast goose is the traditional dish served along with some red cabbage. Alternatively, wild boar may also be served in place of the roast goose.
7. The Christmas tree in the living room is put up usually only on the morning of Christmas Eve
Germans also mainly use real, freshly cut fir or pine trees, that are sold in all sizes at most shops during the last days before Christmas. However, houses and gardens are decorated with festive lights throughout the festive season, just the tree comes last!
8. Not only does Christmas tend to start earlier here, but it ends later too
The season lasts until Three Kings’ Day (January 6); a day when children get to dress up as the Three Wise Men and visit houses to sing songs. Depending on the region, there are a variety of activities for this day, such as burning frankincense, drinking a special beer (bockbier), or going to a special church service.