German Christmas Traditions – Christmas in Germany

As you probably know, Christmas in Germany is an important festival. Do you know about the German Christmas traditions? What can you expect in a German Christmas market? How does it work with the advent wreath? What kinds of advent calendars are there? Check out this post to get prepared for Christmas in Germany!

Christmas in Germany: A family festival

Christmas in Germany is one of the biggest festivals. It is a family festival that everybody is driving home to spend time with their family members. In my hometown Hong Kong, Christmas is also a big festival. However, our celebration is completely different than in Germany. Christmas in Hong Kong is more like a valentine’s day for couples. In Hong Kong, there are a lot of celebration activities outdoor during Christmas Eve.

My friend decided to spend Christmas in Germany on vacation. She expected to join celebration parties outdoor and was totally disappointed. There was nobody on the street! All the shops were closed. Everybody stayed at home to spend time with their families. So, it can be quite a lonely time if you are without your family during Christmas in Germany. It happened to me when I studied in Germany. However, I spent time with other foreign friends and we still had a good time at Christmas.

German Christmas traditions

Advent wreath

If you are living with Germans, you will probably see some advent candles at home in December. This is the advent wreath with usually red candles. It is an advent celebration to prepare for Christmas. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, which is also called the first Sunday of Advent. There are 4 candles on the advent wreath. You are supposed to light up one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, then light up two on the second Sunday of Advent and so on. Until the fourth Sunday, all 4 candles are lighted up and you know that Christmas is coming.

St Nicholas Day

St Nicholas Day is one of the most important German Christmas traditions on 6th December. It is called Sankt Nikolaus Tag in German. In the evening on 5th December, kids will clean their shoes and put them outside their bedroom door. The next morning, they will find candies, nuts, fruits or chocolate inside their shoes (if they are good kids).

On December 6th, you may see someone dressed like St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas looks pretty similar to Santa Claus. This is because the image of modern Santa Claus was originated from St. Nicholas. This explains the similarity in their appearance. Kids are usually very excited about St. Nicholas Day as St. Nicholas may visit their kindergartens. He may hold a book and read out something to each kid, which was pre-written by their parents or the staff from the kindergartens. If a kid is well-behaved, he will receive some small treats from St. Nicholas like sweets, nuts or fruits.

Sometimes, Krampus Night (Krampus Nacht) will come together with St. Nicholas. He is a devil-looking man wearing a scary mask. Usually, he is invited by the parents of naughty kids to teach them a lesson.

Star singers

One of the German Christmas traditions is to have the “Sternsinger” going from house to house in some regions. Star singers are dressed-up kids who sing a song, draw a sign with chalk at the door and collect some donations. They usually come sometime between the 27th December and 6th January. The sign will look like this for the year 2019: 20*C*M*B*19. This is believed to bring good luck to the families.

German Christmas markets

You will find Christmas markets everywhere in Germany, in both big and small cities. Christmas markets usually start in late November, although some already start earlier, depending on the cities. The most famous one is the Christmas market in Nuremberg. You can almost find everything in a Christmas market, either Christmas related or not. For example, the traditional booths sell Christmas decorations and ornaments, while others sell toys, clothes, jewelry, and all sort of other things.

Besides, you will find traditional Christmas foods and drinks in every Christmas market. One of the best activities during Christmas in Germany is to enjoy a mulled wine with your friends in a Christmas market.

Traditional Christmas foods and drinks in Germany

Mulled wine

Mulled wine, or Glühwein in German, is the best symbol for Christmas in Germany. It is hot red sweet wine with cinnamon and other spices. There are different versions of it and you can modify it in many different ways. It tastes great, especially on a cold winter day. You can find it in any Christmas markets. If you prefer to drink it at home, you can also buy it from the supermarket, or make it yourself (recipe here).

If you do not drink alcohol, there is also a non-alcoholic version of mulled wine called Kinderpunsch. It is usually hot fruit juice with tea, cinnamon, and other spices. It is popular for kids or adults who do not drink alcohol.

Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is gingerbread which usually includes honey, nuts, and other spices. You will find them in the Christmas markets, as well as in the supermarkets. If you go to a traditional gingerbread shop, you will also find very nice gingerbread tins (Lebkuchendose) with gingerbread inside. The gingerbread tins are nicely decorated with traditional Christmas pictures. Every Christmas, I send a different gingerbread tin (with gingerbread inside) to my family back in Hong Kong. I think they are perfect gifts with German Christmas traditions.

Sweet roasted almond

You will also find some amazing roasted almonds in the Christmas markets. The almonds are roasted with sugar and other spices. They are the perfect snacks to share with friends when walking through the Christmas markets.

Christmas cookies

German people start eating Christmas cookies during the advent time. You can buy Christmas cookies in supermarkets. However, most people bake the cookies themselves (recipe here). You can bake your Christmas cookies and put them into a nice container. Bring the cookies with you and enjoy them together with your family and friends when you visit them. 

Christmas tree

A lot of families in Germany put up a Christmas tree in their living room during Christmas. Most of them buy a real tree and decorate it by themselves, although it is also possible to buy an artificial one. They usually buy the trees just a little bit before Christmas Eve. During the day on Christmas Eve, they start decorating the tree so that they can light it up in the evening.

If there are kids in the family, they will usually put Christmas presents under the tree while the kids are away from the living room. The kids will be super excited to see all the presents under the lighted tree when they are back. It is also common to exchange presents between adults and this all happens on the night of Christmas Eve.

Advent calendar

Advent calendar or Christmas calendar is a calendar with 24 small windows. You are supposed to open one window every day starting on 1st December. Usually, you will receive a small treat from each window. This is one of the most common German Christmas traditions. The advent calendar can also serve as a Christmas decoration at home or in the office. Traditionally, there is chocolate inside each window of the calendar. However, you can almost find any kind of advent calendars in the market nowadays. 

Different kinds of advent calendars 2019

In the past, I thought that advent calendars are always with chocolate. I was shocked to see that almost anything can be in an advent calendar nowadays! I am going to show you some different kinds of advent calendars below.

Traditional advent calendar

Traditional Wooden Advent Calendar with LED Lighting

This is a traditional wooden advent calendar with chocolate inside each window. It is a great Christmas decoration as well with LED lighting, which brings the special Christmas feeling to your home.

Traditional chocolate advent calendar

This is a less fancy version of a traditional chocolate advent calendar. It is also a very common type of advent calendar in Germany. A perfect gift for colleagues, friends, and kids.

Advent Calendar for your partner

Erotic advent calendar

I have to admit that I was pretty shocked to know that such an advent calendar exists! This can be a perfect gift if you want to surprise your partner and have some fun together at the same time.

Advent calendar with love letters

If an erotic advent calendar is too much for you, you may like this one. This advent calendar gives you the chance to write 24 love letters to your partner. You can show your love with this romantic advent calendar.

Advent calendar with food or drink

Advent calendar with tea, spices or breakfast 

This advent calendar includes 24 boxes of different organic tea bags. It is a perfect calendar for tea lovers.

On the other hand, if you love to cook, you will find this advent calendar with spices very cool. There are different spices in each window. A recipe is also included for each spice, which gives you ideas about what you can cook with the spices.

Do you know you can even have food in an advent calendar? You can get something for your breakfast from this advent calendar every morning. There are 24 different surprises including jam, snacks, honey, coffee, tea, etc.

Advent calendar with alcohol

Advent calendar with beers or wines

German people love beers. This advent calendar with beers includes 24 different local and international beers. If you do not prefer beers, you can also find an advent calendar with wines which includes wines from different parts of the world.

Advent calendar for women

Advent calendar with beauty products or jewelry

For women who love beauty, this advent calendar with beauty products includes 24 different products like masks, cream, make-up and so on.

Alternatively, you can also find an advent calendar with jewelry. As a woman myself, I never get tired of jewelry. The advent calendar includes 24 different jewelry in each window for women to have a nice surprise.

Advent calendar for kids

Advent calendar with LEGO or Barbie

Kids love advent calendars for an obvious reason. This LEGO advent calendar includes a LEGO part in each window.

For girls, this Barbie advent calendar includes a Barbie and each window provides an accessory for her.

Advent calendar for pets

Advent calendar for dogs and cats

I was quite surprised that pets also get their advent calendars! This calendar includes a treat for your dog in each window. And for sure, there are also advent calendars for cats! Bring the Christmas joy also to your pets!

DIY advent calendar

You can decide what you want to give to your loved one with a DIY advent calendar. You also do not necessarily need to give a physical gift. For example, my friends have small kids at home. In the advent calendar for their kids, they put different activities in each window. Every day after dinner, the kids can open one window and find an activity that they can do together with their parents. It can be something small like singing a song together, dancing together, playing a small game together, etc.

make your own Advent calendar

If you are a creative person and prefer to make your own advent calendar, this advent calendar with empty bags will be something for you. You can decide what to put in these 24 small bags for your loved one.

Similarly, this advent calendar with Santa Claus figure also allows you to decide on your 24 small treats. This is also a nice Christmas decoration at the same time.

Are you surprised by any of the German Christmas traditions? What kind of advent calendar do you love most? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

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