Christmas in Germany follows many traditions, some of them hundreds of years old. Here are the top 16 old German Christmas traditions.
Christmas is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. Customs and traditions are very important, as are the food and the companionship of friends and family. Germany has many such traditions; I hope you enjoy finding out about them!
1. Christmas stockings: German children are given their Christmas stockings on the 6th of December, Saint Nicholas Day. But they don’t look inside until the following day, the Feast of Saint Nicholas. This tradition is shared by many countries in Europe, regardless of the religious preferences of the local people. Stockings are usually filled with toys, fresh oranges, or coins made from chocolate
2. Krampus Night: Known as Krampus Nacht, this is held on the day before Saint Nicholas. People dress up in scary masks in imitation of the horned devil Krampus and roam the streets scaring children and adults alike!
3. Advent calendars: Adventskalendar, or advent calendars, are popular all over the world but they originated in Germany. Started in the 19th and 20th centuries by Lutherans, families would begin a countdown of the days leading up to Christmas, often by marking the walls with chalk or lighting a candle. Now, of course, there are advent calendars filled with chocolate treats behind little doors. Or, more recently, ones that you can fill yourself
4. Christmas Eve: In Germany, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, or Heiliger Abend. This is a very busy day for everyone. Trees are put up and decorated, then the adults set to work cleaning the home and preparing food for everyone. When darkness falls, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree
5. Christmas presents: According to German tradition, gifts are given to children on Christmas Eve. The Christkind, or Christ child, delivers the gifts personally. The children wait outside the room, then when a bell is rung, they can go inside. Carols are sung then the presents can be opened. After that, families will go to church for the Christmas Eve service, or stay at home and eat some delicious food
6. The Christmas tree: This is always put up and decorated on Christmas Eve. Decorations are put up around the home but the tree is saved until last
7.The Advent wreath: Known as Adventskranz, this is another tradition started by the Lutherans, in the 16th century. The wreath is made from 4 candles nestling in a bed of pine cones, berries, dried flowers, and ornaments and placed on the table. The wreath makes its appearance around the beginning of December, with one candle being lit every Sunday during the month of December
8. Christmas markets: This is something that the Germans do very well; Christmas markets have popped up all over the world, and their popularity continues to grow. The origins of the Christmas market go right back to Europe in the middle ages. As well as browsing the stalls, you can enjoy ice skating followed by mulled wine to warm you from the inside out
9. The Christmas angel: Many of these special angels, called Weihnachtsengel, are on display in German homes, some very old and passed down through the generations as a family heirloom. Angels appear on the tree, but also on the table and other furniture. They convey love, peace, and togetherness and as such are cherished items.
10. Stollen: This festive cake is now popular in many countries; it’s a type of fruit bread made with nuts, spices, dried fruits, and sugar. Some stollens have marzipan in the centre but most of them are fruit bread, liberally dusted with powdered sugar. Both versions are delicious!
11. Hand-carved wooden nutcracker figures: These good-luck figures often resemble toy soldiers and are said to protect the family and the home from evil spirits. Nutcrackers have long been given as keepsakes and symbols of good luck
12. Feuerzangenbowle: This is a rather potent concoction made from wine, rum, and sometimes fruit juice. It’s similar to mulled wine but packs more of a punch. The name means ‘fire tongs punch’ and is just the thing to warm you up on a cold day
13. Lebkuchen: This cake, sweetened with honey and topped with sugar, dates back to the 14th century when catholic monks started to use it. It goes very well with a cup of tea but you do need a very sweet tooth to enjoy it fully
14. Christmas carols: No Christmas celebration in Germany is complete without Christmas carols; families gather in the home and sing together, while others go to church to sing. Carols date back to medieval times and were written by local clergymen, using some well-known folk melodies
15. Christmas Day: Known as Erster Feiertag, it means ‘first celebration day.’ Although the presents have been opened the day before, on Christmas Eve, families still get together to enjoy lots of good food, lovingly prepared and proudly presented
16. Sternsinger: This is where young children dress up as the Three Wise Men and go out to visit homes in their neighbourhood, carrying a star on a rod. The children will often sing carols to spread good cheer. This is a catholic tradition, also used in parts of Austria
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
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4 thoughts on “Old German Christmas Traditions”
Christmas is a special time of year no matter where you are in the world. I love the traditions that come along with the holiday season and it’s interesting to learn about different cultures and how they celebrate. I hope everyone will have a very merry Christmas!
Germany has many Christmas traditions that are hundreds of years old. I’m really interested in the Christmas stocking tradition- it’s a fun way to give kids a little bit of excitement leading up to Christmas day. Nice post!
Hi there, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it interesting. We could certainly add in some traditions from other countries to make our Christmas celebrations a bit different. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas
Hey thanks for this post, it was certainly interesting to know about these facts!
I like how germany has kept the old Christmas traditions, it’s always cool to see it being carried on, feels authentic too! Plus the older generations get to share their experiences whilst the youngers still being able to relate to them.
Some of these traditions still go on such as the exciting advent calendar countdown and the stockings!
Have a great day!
Thanks Sariyah, I think these traditions and customs are very important, you’re right about it being shared between generations. We never had a Christmas stocking growing up but I think this year we should give ourselves this treat, filled with some of our favourite things! Have a wonderful Christmas