How to Celebrate a German Christmas

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Christmas is such a special occasion in Germany that the celebration lasts for two full days. The second day, December 26, is called "zweite Weihnachtstag" (second Christmas Day).

Things You'll Need

  • Christmas Gifts
  • Advent Wreath
  • Christmas Trees
  • Nativity Scenes
  • Candles
  • Geese
  • Decorate your house for the season. Display candles in special wooden frames attached to your windows and hang colorful pictures on the glass.

  • Put up an "Adventskranz," or Advent wreath, with four candles to symbolize the four weeks of Advent. Light one candle for each week. Advent calendars are also popular in Germany.

  • Celebrate St. Niklaus Day on December 6, when Niklaus (the German equivalent of Santa Claus) brings sweets and small toys for the children. According to old tradition, a dwarf follows Niklaus with a sack full of switches (thin, long sticks) for children who are bad.

  • Arrange a Nativity scene in your yard. Build a small crib or stable to represent where Jesus was born. Include figures of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and the animals.

  • Visit an outdoor crafts fair called a "Weihnachtsmarkt" (Christmas market) or "Christkindlmarkt" (Christ child market), which consists of vendors selling colorful handmade gifts. The Christkindlmarkt is especially famous in Frankfurt and Nuremberg.

  • Eat roasted chestnuts and drink "Gluhwein," a red wine that is served hot.

  • Plan to attend church on Christmas Eve day, if this is part of your family's tradition.

  • Expect Der Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas, to arrive late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve bearing presents to leave under the tree. Ask a family member to ring a bell to announce that the gifts have arrived.

  • Serve a Christmas Day meal of fish or goose followed by stollen and other traditional German sweets.

  • Visit relatives and deliver gifts on the day after Christmas.

Tips & Warnings

  • "Merry Christmas" in German is "Froehliche Weihnachten!"
  • Many American Christmas traditions - such as getting a Christmas tree for the home - originated in Germany.
  • Germany is a cosmopolitan country made up of several ethnic and cultural groups, so Christmas traditions are quite diverse and cannot be generalized. The steps above represent a few examples of local traditions that may or may not be appropriate for your personal celebration of Christmas.

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