Packing my suitcase: Preparing a German Christmas
Warm the mulled wine! Give your holiday season a touch of German Christmas tradition this year. Here's how to capture a German Christmas charm.
Give your holiday season a touch of German Christmas tradition with hot mulled wine, German Christmas sweets and German Christmas decorations – including an Advent Calendar, of course.
It's that festive time of year once again. For those in the north hemisphere it is winter, for those in the south it is summer, but for all those who celebrate, it's Christmas time for everyone.
As an expat in Germany for almost three years, it is only fair to share how the Germans celebrate Christmas, what are their traditions – which might be similar to many other countries – and which ones are my favourites. Being married to a person with a different nationality generally means learning different traditions, and that was exactly the case when a German married a Brazilian. Here I share some German Christmas traditions.
The tree in Germany
I was really excited to spend my first Christmas in Germany when I was told the German tradition is to buy a real Christmas tree! I know for many it is the same in your home country, but in Brazil we have the fake plastic kind. I love the idea of picking a new, real tree every year, of whatever size you want – and the smell is great.
I was not so excited to discover that in Germany, however, the tree is only decorated on 24 December. For me this is one tradition I can’t get used to, and we had to compromise on this one. In many countries, including mine, the tree is ready as early as 1 December.
Advent, as probably most of you know, is the name given to the four precedent Sundays to Christmas. Here in Germany – as in many other countries, especially in Europe – there are calendars that begin on 1 December and end on 24. That is why it is called Adventskalender: Advent’s Calendar.
These calendars have a little window for each date, which contains a little surprise; it can be chocolate, a message or a gift. Some even have whiskey and others beer! You can buy them in supermarkets and in many different stores; plus you can either buy one already filled with surprises, or empty ones, which allow you to arrange the gifts yourself. Every year my partner makes one for me – he takes this tradition very serious, and I love it.
Glühwein and Kinderpunsch
These two are the most popular drinks in Germany at this time of the year. Glühwein is the German word for mulled wine. Some hate it, others love it. I stay with the second option. It doesn’t only taste good and helps with the cold winter, but it also comes in cute mugs.
Kinderpunsch is basically the same as Glühwein but without alcohol and little sweeter. It is mainly for kids but I know some adults that love it too.
It is something every German has at home. It is a wreath with four candles; they should be lit one at a time every Sunday precedent to Christmas. They are mainly sold in supermarkets, flower shops and decoration stores.
German Christmas food
This is probably the best part! Apart from the typical drinks of this time of the year, there is some typical food, too. For Christmas dinner it is tradition to eat duck, though throughout this season these sweets are specifically a hint.
Pläztchen are small decorated cookies with different shapes and flavours, such as vanilla, chocolate, walnut, macadamia, cinnamon and much more. The tradition is to bake them at home – homemade ones are indeed the best – though you can find them in supermarkets and bakeries, too, normally in small plastic packages.
Eat them roasted, covered with chocolate or vanilla, caramelised and more; these almonds are to die for, and their smell impregnates the streets together with glühwein. Not always cheap – around EUR 4 for 100g – though worth to be tasted!
This one many know but with another name. It is originally called Kürtőskalács, a traditional Hungarian pastry, but it is also popular in Germany, though it is called Baumstriezel. They have different flavours like sugar and cinnamon, vanilla, sprinkles and others.
Lebkuchen is nothing less than gingerbread, which is very famous in Germany. You know those cute hearts traditional at Oktoberfest? They are made of gingerbread, and at Christmas time they are also very common, found in many different shapes and with different phrases. They are found in most bakeries, Christmas markets, supermarkets and even in decoration stores.
Is there Santa Claus?
Now this tradition can be of surprise to many, but in many regions of Germany – especially the more Catholic ones – there is no Santa Claus. Of course they all know Santa Claus because of the media, but there are two other important figures that replace Santa Claus: St Nikolaus (St Nicholas) and Christkind.
Every time I say 'Santa Claus', my partner corrects me. For me they are all the same, but for them it is definitely not. St Nikolaus’ day is 6 December, and it is often said that the Santa Claus we all know was inspired by him. More about his story can be found here. On the other hand, Christkind is the 'gift-bringer', the one who actually brings the gifts.
This one many know or have heard about – or have visited. The Weihnachtsmärkte are the infamous and loved Christmas markets, found in probably all European countries. In Germany, every town has at least one; in Munich there are more than 15 Christmas markets, big and small, and in different parts of the city.
What are the Christmas traditions of your country or the country you are living in? Any similarities with the German traditions?
Allane Milliane is a Brazilian travel blogger who lives in Munich. She fell in love and continues to discover and learn each day a little bit more about the Germans and their culture. She shares her experiences as an expat in Germany on her blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.