After we talked about Christmas in the States last week, we will cover Christmas in Germany today.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I am German and I totally love celebrating in Germany. Obviously because it is home, but also because of the atmosphere. It is can be pretty magical ;).
Pre- Christmas in Germany
It all starts 4 Sundays before Christmas or 3 if the 24th is a Sunday. It is the beginning of the so-called “Advent”.
Each Sunday the family gets together and lights a Candle of a “Adventskranz”, which is a wreath made out of pine twigs and 4 candles . Each Sunday you will light one more until all 4 are burning. When we were little we used to sing, sometimes we just sat together a while, eating Christmas Cookies and just being thankful that everybody was healthy and we were so blessed to enjoy this time together. (I once stared into the flames to long and accidentally burned part of my bangs xD )
Besides that my mom and the rest of Germany starts to go decoration-crazy. Around the 1st of December she got the decorations from our attic and put up stars, angels and our speaking and dancing Santa. Just a couple of lights for the balcony and our tiny tree in front of the door. No big flashy lights, nothing compared to the USA. Just small decorations to set the mood.
When we were little she made paper snowflakes with us and we were folding stars out of red and golden paper.
My favorite part was the kitchen, were she was hanging up some lights, so when we had dinner we turned the main light off and where just eating with the christmas lights on…romantic and cozy.
Then from the 1st of December, each kid gets a Christmas Calendar. Sometimes it is a simple one with a small piece of chocolate for each day. Sometimes my mom made one, where she put a little surprise in 24 socks, which were hanging in the kitchen. Each morning we had to find the right day and got the surprise. Some sweets, hair clips, lip palm. Just something small and cute.
The 6th of December – Nikolaus Day
Then the 6th of December came, which was a special day when we were younger. It’s Saint Niklas Day. Supposedly he was a bishop who helped out the poor.
So on the 6th we celebrate this. The kids had to clean up their boots very well that night and put one in front of the door. The next morning we found the boot stuffed with mandarins, nuts and chocolate and some pocket-money.
When we were even smaller, one of our family members got dressed up as Saint Niklas and late at night it would knock on the door. We opened it and there was Niklas standing in the door, with a stick in one hand and a bag over the shoulder.
We then had to sing for him or recite a poem and got asked if we were nice kids and behaved this year. If yes we would get some sweets, if no, well that was what the stick was for.
Needless to say, we always got the sweets 😉
German Christmas Markets
We usually go to the Christmas markets, which are the most amazing thing ever. Germany is amazing with these and even in Shanghai the have German Christkindl markets.The Christkind by the way is said to bring the presents in Germany. Santa is a bit of a newer adoption, which I guess we copied from the States.
Christkind, Jesus if you want to see it that way, just means Christmas Child. So instead of an old man, we had a young child bringing gifts to the kids that where nice and behaved good 😉
That’s why our markets are sometimes called Christkindl markets.
If you want to know more about the markets, read here :German Christmas Markets -Amazing Winter
Opening Times during the holidays
Stores are open on the 24th until the afternoon, so you can do some last-minute shopping, but prepare well for the following days, because during 25th and 26th mostly everything will be closed and streets are literally deserted. Just a couple of Bars and Restaurants will be open.
How is the Christmas Celebration?
Obviously this depends on the family. But most will celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Which means my family “forces” me to go to church. I quote: We know you don’t believe, but we do, it’s once a year, jump over you shadow and come with us. Do us the favor.
It ends usually with me and my dad finding funny parts in the song texts and making fun of these or falling asleep, while my sister gets out her phone
and my mother sings enthusiastically along.
The mass for adults tends to be a tiny tad too long, but it still is nice, especially because there is often a orchester playing.
Afterwards everybody puts the presents under the tree and the table gets set and the door shut. No entering that room anymore.
We cook together and last year we were actually even singing all kinds of christmas songs 😀
Usually we celebrate together with my mother’s family on this day (they all live very close by and she just had two siblings.
Once everybody is there we eat together.
Which was horrible when we were kids. There were all the presents lying under the tree, but we had to finish our plates first xD
The youngest ones gets the honor to give the gifts to everybody and once everybody has all their stuff, you can start unpacking.
Every year all the adults say, they won’t buy any presents for each other, but they still end up having a small something for each other (counting myself still as a kid here xD ).
I started prepping little things for my aunts and uncles when I got my first real pocket-money. Usually just a soap or some chocolate.
Last year I crafted most of it. I painted Christmas-balls and made Paper Boxes for them. So much nicer to have hand-made presents instead of the usual stuff. Instead of buying something random I invested some time.
But then mostly I get money from my relatives. Which is just fair, because I am away so often, how should they know what I like or need. It is easier that way. Not that I am complaining, this way I can buy what I want 😉
How is it in non-christian families?
Well this actually depends. Most of the country is protestant or catholic. Even the ones not religious celebrate christmas. Even some of my Muslim friends did. Sure it was different, but many got a christmas tree too and the kids also got presents.
Christmas is more about family and spending time together.
Sure Christmas is for kids about the presents, but most learn early that you have to be reasonable and that Christmas is also about giving joy to others and not about simply getting all you want.
What is with the other Christmas Days?
We always go to my Dads Family side for lunch on the 25th and the same starts again. Food, exchanging presents and enjoying the time together. Going for a walk in the snow if we are lucky and are having snow or playing games.
The 26th then is just my parents, my sister and me. We sometimes make ourselves mulled wine or meet again with my uncle. It is simply family time. No meeting friends, this time was strictly reserved for family.
But that really depends on your family 😉
So literally after eating 3 days straight Christmas is over, the scale is your biggest enemy and on the first week of January you usually end up throwing your Christmas Tree out.
Everything gets put away until next year!
Your turn, how do you celebrate? 😉