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The 12 most popular traditions for Christmas

In every country, some traditions are particularly important for all people. In Germany, these are the traditions at Christmas.

Do you know them all?

1. The Advent Calendar

Every day, the advent calendar takes us a little closer to Christmas.

We don't know exactly, when the advent calendar was invented.

The first simple advent calendars appeared around 1840: 24 chalk lines were drawn on the wall, on a cupboard door, or a door frame. Every day, the children were allowed to wipe away one line. This way they, could see the time leading up to Christmas getting shorter and shorter.

The publisher Gerhard Lang from Munich invented the first Advent calendar with little doors. In 1902 he printed the first copies.

Today, most children (and many adults) love their Advent calendars - filled with chocolates, toys and many other beautiful things.

2. Christmas Markets

A Christmas season without a Christmas market? That's basically unthinkable!

Weihnachtsmarkt in der Nacht

At the Christmas market, you can find special gifts, such as handicrafts for Christmas decoration, and special foods: Glühwein (mulles wine), roasted almonds, gingerbread, and much more.

In smaller towns, the Christmas market is the place where you meet neighbors and friends during Advent time and wish them a “Merry Christmas”.

Here you will meet up with friends to drink mulled wine with them.

Or you can just enjoy the Christmas atmosphere: the Christmas market simply makes the time before Christmas a lot more Christmassy!

3. der Nikolaus - Saint Nicholas

Nicholas is eagerly awaited by the children. He comes in the night of December 6th and also “in person” into kindergarten and to many families.

Of course, the children are also a little afraid of him - after all, St. Nicholas has a golden book that contains everything that the children have done well ... or not so well. Did they not tidy up their room? Or don't they always do their homework? Saint Nicholas knows it!

And of course, only the good children get something from him: not only the traditional apples, nuts, and mandarins but above all a lot of chocolate!

4. The Advent Wreath

The Protestant theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern invented the Advent wreath in 1839.

His idea was to count the days until Christmas with burning candles.

Today, the Advent wreath has four candles that are lit on Advent Sundays, i.e. the Sundays before Christmas. One candle burns on the first Advent, two on the second, three on the third, and finally all four on the fourth.

5. Celebrating Advent Sundays

Many families in Germany celebrate Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas.

The family meets in the afternoon when it gets dark. You sit comfortably around the Advent wreath, eat cookies, sing Christmas carols, and look forward to Christmas.

6. Christmas carols

Every year, we have new Christmas carols. Some of them will even turn into "new classics" that simply belong to Christmas, such as 'Last Christmas'.

But there are also the traditional Christmas carols that everyone in Germany knows and can sing along to. Many of them are more solemn and 'more contemplative'.

That fits in with the mood of many people in Germany at Christmas.

Popular traditional German Christmas carols are for example:

- Alle Jahre wieder

- Fröhliche Weihnacht überall

- Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen

- Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

- O Tannenbaum

- O du fröhliche

- Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann

- Morgen Kinder wird’s was geben

- Kling Glöckchen klingelingeling

- Süßer die Glocken nie klingen

7. Christmas Cookies

Shortly before the First Advent, the big baking starts in Germany: In almost every family, various traditional cookies are baked. "Die Plätzchen"- these are cookies that you eat for Christmas.

The most popular cookies include gingerbread in all shapes, sizes, and variants: with or without chocolate, or icing, soft or hard, ... and, of course Vanillekipferl, nut macaroons, Spekulatius and many others.

The children particularly love cookies that they can cut out and decorate.

8. Christmas Cards

Around 100 million letters and cards are sent in Germany at Christmas.

Many families have cards printed with photos of their children or the whole family and send them to relatives and friends. This way, you keep contact to those who live further away and see over the course of the years, how small babies turn into big children and then young adults.

9. The 'Christmas star' - Poinsettia

The poinsettia is very popular in the Advent season as a decoration or as a gift.

In Germany alone, 32 million of these plants are sold every year!

They grow in Africa, Australia, and Asia, and they have been around in Germany since around 1950.

10. The Christmas tree

The first Christmas tree we know about, was put up in Bremen in 1597. Today, we can hardly imagine a Christmas without a Christmas tree!

In Germany, fresh trees are common. Usually, they are put up between the 4th of Advent and Christmas Eve. Most families keep the Christmas tree in place until Epiphany on January 6th.

frische Weihnachtsbäume

On the Christmas tree, there are often real candles burning. This is so much nicer and more atmospheric than electric light!

And that's probably why a bucket filled with wate or a fire extinguisher in the corner is one of the lesser-known Christmas traditions for many families.

11. The Presents

Of course, gifts are also a part of Christmas!

In 2022, every German spent an average of € 520 on gifts.

Money or vouchers are very popular presents. But so are "classic" gifts such as books and, of course, toys for the children.

12. Der Weihnachtmann (Father Christmas) and das Christkind (Christ Child)

Who brings the presents at Christmas - Father Christmas or the Christ Child? Der Weihnachtsmann comes to many families, especially in northern Germany. In the south and particularly in Bavaria, it's the Christ Child who comes.

Whoever it is: they come on Christmas Eve, on December 24th in the evening.

After what is usually a hectic morning, the day becomes quiet and festive in the afternoon or evening.

Frohe Weihnachten - Merry Christmas!


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