Christmas is a wonderful time here in Stuttgart. Not only because of our beautiful Christmas market. Let me introduce to you some German Christmas traditions.
German Christmas traditions: Advent calendar
We count down the days up to December 24 (the day we celebrate Christmas) with the help of an Advent calendar. The original version was made out of paper with flaps that cover 24 pictures. Nowadays, a great variety of Advent calendars exist: you can buy chocolate filled calendars in the supermarket or create an individual one for your loved ones with 24 little presents. Obviously, Advent calendars are intended for children but very often, couples or good friends create them for each other, too.
German Christmas traditions: Adventskranz/Advent wreath)
The story of the Advent wreath goes back to the 16th century and is actually an old German Lutheran tradition. Nowadays, nearly every family has one on their dinner table. Traditional Advent wreaths are circular in shape and made out of evergreens. Four candles are placed on the wreath and one after the other is lit on every Advent Sunday.
German Christmas traditions: Nikolaustag/Saint Nicholas Day
On December 6 we celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students and according to the legend he loved to give gifts to people.
Nowadays, Children put out one boot on the evening of December 5. When the check the boot the next morning, it is filled with nuts, oranges and chocolates – maybe even small toys. This was the secret gift of Saint Nicholas. Some kids might find a switch in their boot, too, telling them that they have behaved badly from time to time in the passing year and should be better next year (for the record: there was a switch in my boot EVERY SINGLE YEAR by the way! :-D)
German Christmas traditions: Christmas cookies and more
Advent is all about sweets. Not only on the Christmas markets you will find all sorts of candy, also the regular supermarkets are filled with chocolate Weihnachtsmänner. Moreover, it is a German Christmas tradition to bake your own Christmas cookies (called Plätzchen). There are many different types of Plätzchen, my favorite ones are Vanillekipferl /vanilla crescents (click here for recipe on bbcgoodfood.com) are Zimtsterne/cinnamon stars (click here for recipe on bbcgodfood.com). Pssssst: If you don’t want to bake them by yourself, check out the shelfs in the supermarket 😉
German Christmas traditions: Christmas Eve
In Germany, we celebrate Christmas on the eve of December 24. Families gather and have dinner together. Then everybody sits around the Christmas tree (that might be presented to the family for the first time that day). The tree is decorated with (false or real) candles, Christmas ornaments and glass baubles. Presents are exchanged and opened and in some families songs are sung. It depends on the family tradition if Santa Claus (Weihnachtsmann) or the angel-like Christkind is the bringer of the gifts. In the end, both will work 😉 Religious families go to church – when they have small children they might choose the mass in the afternoon, families without small children usually prefer the Christmette at midnight.
German Christmas traditions: Christmas dinner
Don’t laugh but the traditional German dinner on Christmas Eve is sausages with potato salad! 😀 And it makes sense: December 24 has not been a public holiday for a long time – even today many employees have to work in the morning. So the afternoon was filled with wrapping the gifts and decorating the Christmas tree. There was no time to prepare a big dinner. Plus – obviously – we Germans love our sausages 😀 Even today many families keep the tradition alive and serve this simple meal on Christmas Eve. However, there are other meals that are served all over Germany as well, roast meat for example.
German Christmas traditions: The thing with the Christmas pickle…
You might have heard of a “German tradition” where Germans put up a pickle in the Christmas tree. I wrote about this before. If you want to find out, if this is a real German Christmas tradition, check out my former post – but be prepared for the truth… 😉