When a thick blanket of snow covers the country, lights sparkle on Christmas trees and the air is filled with aromas of cloves and cinnamon, the festive season has arrived. From Christmas markets to opening advent calendars or baking, Germany’s many Christmas traditions create a very special atmosphere in December.
Decorating at home and Christmas markets
It is common to decorate the entire house during December. Christmas trees are lavishly decorated with items that have been passed down for generations. Anything that glistens or gleams is popular, such as baubles, bells or angel figurines.
Besides these trees, which bring a festive atmosphere to German households, it is often the Christmas markets that are a highlight for young and old alike, inviting you to take an atmospheric stroll through the alleys with festively decorated stalls. If you feel hungry, you can snack on gingerbread, candied apples, Christmas stollen and hot chestnuts. You may also try mulled wine or children’s punch, which are also found at every Christmas market. Wooden carvings from the Erzgebirge, artistic glass baubles or unique, handmade regional items are on offer as Christmas decorations or sustainable Christmas gifts for loved ones.
Events and activities until Christmas
In Germany, the Advent calendar is an essential part of the festivities. Preparations start at the end of November as the calendar and its 24 surprises need to be ready by December 1st. The principle is simple: a little gift every day to ease the wait until Christmas Eve. These calendars come in many shapes and sizes: from chocolate to toys, they can contain a variety of presents. On the evening of December 5th, children put their freshly cleaned shoes outside the door so that when they wake up on the 6th of December, those boots will be filled with apples, nuts and sweets. This tradition is said to have been inspired by Saint Nicholas, a bishop who lived in Myra, Turkey in the 4th century. On the 24th of December, many locals – whether Christian or not – go to church to watch the nativity play, which is often performed by children.
December for foodies
Advent is a time for indulging. At the beginning of December the sweet treats season starts with baking cookies. Children have fun kneading dough, cutting out cookies in festive shapes and decorating them. Another sweet treat traditionally enjoyed over the festive season in Germany is Christmas stollen, baked according to different family recipes but usually using yeast dough, butter, raisins and nuts. The reputation of Dresden Christmas stollen has spread around the world, while little gingerbread Lebkuchen are also enjoyed in many countries. Despite these famous sweets, German families tend to favor more savory fare on Christmas Eve. Potato salad with sausages are on the menu in many households. Over the next few days of celebrations, people feast on roast goose with dumplings and red cabbage or even carp.