It is Christmas time!
But what do you know about Christmas in Germany, or have you ever wondered who is coming to Dutch kids, or even how does Belgian Santa look like. I would like to make everything clear. First of all, it was an unexpected discovery for me, that 3 neighboring countries, such as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have so different Christmas traditions. As we all know the basic elements of Christmas are Santa, presents, dinner, Christmas tree and fairy-tale. And in each of those countries the elements are intertwined into a unique story.
What makes German Christmas really German?
The country is diverse and each region has its own peculiarities, that is why describing German Christmas traditions is extremely difficult. German concept of Christmas is as much celebration as possible, more magical creatures to give presents and sweats all over the place. Christmas starts in the early December and lasts until 26th of December. Christmas Day is called “Erste Feiertag” (‘first celebration’) and the 26th December is known as “Zweite Feiertag” (‘second celebration’) and also “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag” and after goes Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day. The tradition of celebrating the Boxing day comes from UK and literally meant opening the boxes that were kept in churches for poor people. Today it has nothing to do with poverty and hunger, but more with recreation of the body from chocolate attack, a relaxing afterparty in some way.
Advent in Germany
A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. I bet there is no such a person who has never heard of this time in Germany. As the word means “coming” it is connected with a long preparation for the Christmas Day. One of the most important elements of Advent is Advent Calendar. I find this calendar extremely useful as it teaches you how to wait for the right time.
The history of the calendar traced back to 19th century and is connected with Gerhard Lang’s mom. When he was a kid she made him an Advent Calendar with 24 “Wibbele” (little candies) which were stuck on a cardboard. Later when he worked at the printing office Reichhold & Lang, he made the similar model for every day in December. This was the first printed Advent Calendar, although without windows to be opened. At the beginning of the 20th Lang produced the first Advent Calendars with little doors to open. It does not necessarily need to be a candy behind the doors, be creative.
Forget Santa, meet the Christkind! And he does not come at Christmas. While Santa Clause may not come, Christkind is the gift bearer in Germany and throughout different parts of Europe. And as a rule, it is a girl.
You can send your Christmas wishes to her at: An das Christkind, 51777 Engelskirchen.
Now let’s talk about the presents. German kids are very lucky, apart from having presents like candies and chocolate every day during the whole month, there is an extra Christmas Holliday. It is called St Nikolaus Day and celebrated on December, 6. The tricky thing about Nikolaus is that he “knows” about you everything and depending on your behaviour he decides whether to give you presents or punish you. From late evening children are preparing for Nikolaus to come, they tidy their shoes and hang a sock next to the door, so that Nikolaus could give them a present.
From religious point of view Germany is divided between Protestants and Catholics and both gave their traditions to the culture. As the outstanding figure of Protestant church, Marthin Luter wanted to get rid of Catholic element Sankt Nikolaus and replace it with der Heilige Christ (das Christkind) due to the reason that Protestants did not emphasize saints. Later this Christkind developed into der Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas). Now all of the 3 Santas cooperate together and just imagine how lucky German children are: the chances of getting a present are increased.
Now let’s have a quick peak at Christmas dinner. Neither chicken, nor turkey makes German Christmas dinner. A goose runs the table or Weihnachtsgans. The rest of the world waxes poetic about Christmas goose. Germans actually eat it. But my attention was caught by a cucumber, a pickle to be exact. You have probably seen glass pickles as the Christmas tree decoration. The tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree is pretty common, and many people think that it is very popular in Germany. But the funny thing is that you can hardly find any German who will be familiar with this tradition. The story started with the soldier, who was captured and sent to the prison during the American Civil War. There in the prison he was starving and asked a guard for one pickle before he died. As the story goes this pickle gave him mental and physical strength to live on. Since then the tradition of magical pickle started to develop. According to it, the first one to find the pickle on the Christmas tree will be blessed with a year of good fortune…
German Christmas is way more festive, various Christmas Markets, dressed up festivals, candles, lights. People are trying to make this time the happiest of the year. Christmas is very traditional in Germany. Almost every family gather together on Christmas day. It does not matter which part of Germany you are in, you will see the celebration in any case.