Christmas in Germany
At the end of November in most German cities a very well-known tradition starts: The Christmas Markets! They are usually located in the old part of the town, but of course most shopping centers have one as well. There are booths with beautiful Christmas decorations or woolen socks, gloves & bonnets which you can purchase. For the kids you have carousels and carol singing. Also you can enjoy various offers of delicious (mostly deep-fryed) food and a lot of candy including gingerbread. And of course, not to forget: mulled wine, which we call Glühwein in Germany
We call the season "Advent". On the 1st Sunday of Advent we light one candle on the advent wreath, on the 2nd Sunday we light two candles on the wreath and so on. Most families light their candles either during a cosy Sunday breakfast or during the afternoon, while enjoying coffee and Christmas cookies.
December 6th - Nikolaus
December 6 – Nikolaus – is a very special day for German children and the first highlight in the festive season. Before going to bed on December 5th every child places a boot in front of the door (or in some regions a plate in the living room), which will be filled with candy from St. Nikolaus overnight. In the days around December 6, most children meet Nikolaus and his companion Knecht Ruprecht in e.g. their sports club, where he joins the Christmas party and has a little story about every child in his golden book. But only the nice children are supposed to get some sweets from Nikolaus, if they are on the naughty list, Knecht Ruprecht will show them his birch stick.
We have something additional to celebrate: It’s Max’s birthday on December 6! (He was a lucky boy and never had to meet Knecht Ruprecht’s birch stick because of that 😉)
Christmas Eve in Germany
Different than the American tradition, where a lot of families get their presents on the morning of December 25th, in Germany we are exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve. This is the most important day of the Christmas celebrations in Germany. In the morning it is a quite normal day, supermarkets and shops are open to do the last groceries or to shop some last-minute gifts. Around 2 pm the shops are closing and everything falls into a beautiful atmosphere of peace and silence. Children are excitedly waiting for Santa Claus / Christ Child (depending on the region in Germany you live) and quite a lot of families are going to church. When it’s finally dark, the Christmas celebration can begin. Every family has its own tradition for the sequence of that day. Some exchange the presents first, then enjoy their meal; others do it the other way around. Some have music at home, others are playing parlor games, and others just enjoy each other’s company; talking and laughing.
Every child in Germany gets an Advent Calender – and a lot of adults keep to this tradition. From December 1st until December 24th you can open a little window – or sometimes a little present – to count down the days until Christmas. When we were children, Advent Calenders where filled with chocolate. Nowadays of course you still have the versions with chocolate, but so much more: Little toys for the kids, and cosmetics or beer for the grown-ups.