By Christin Ahlfeld
“Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt, erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier; dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.”
(“Advent Advent, a little light burns, first one, then two, then three, then four, then the Christ Child stands in front of the door”)
As a child I always repeated rhymes like this on Christmas day just before the presents were given to the children. In other years, I stood in front of my family and presented a Christmas poem which was necessary to get my presents.
Nowadays I enjoy Christmas time in Germany as much as I did as a child all those years ago.
German Christmas time starts on the first Sunday of December when families celebrate the first Advent. A traditional activity is to set up the Adventskranz (advent wreath) which is decorated with four candles and fir branches. A new candle is lit each week and when all four candles are burning Christmas is coming soon.
At the beginning of the season many children get an Advent calendar with 24 doors or little bags. These calendars are either bought and filled with chocolate or self-made and filled with toys, sweets or anything else!
Germans have a wide range of delicious festive recipes. Baking is essential during the season.Children in particular love to help their parents and grandparents in the kitchen.
First of all, there is the famous Stollen. This is a fruit cake and contains raisins and marzipan, and is covered with lots of powdered sugar. German families eat it every weekend when celebrating the Advent. They also serve Lebkuchen (ginger bread) in the shape of hearts, stars and pretzels, star-shaped cinnamon biscuits, coconut macaroons, Plätzchen (Christmas cookies) and domino dices throughout December. You can find all those sweets in the stores from the end of September or the beginning of October.
On the 6th of December Germans celebrate the so called ‘Nikolaus’-day. In the evening of the 5th, the children clean their shoes and put them in front of their door. During the night Nikolaus visits the house and fills the boots with sweets or chocolate.
During the festive season you can find lots of Christmas markets throughout Germany where visitors can buy decorations for the Christmas tree, mulled wine, Christmas treats and many other lovely things. Usually you hear Christmas songs while going around the market and you can take a ride on a carousel.
Children usually write a list of wishes to Santa Claus before Christmas. There is a village in Germany called Himmelpfort (lit. ‘portal to heaven’) where children can send their letters. There is even a letterbox for Santa Claus’ post.
When it’s finally Christmas Eve, many families go to church and enjoy the nativity play before heading home. Some people decorate the Christmas tree on the 24th but others buy their tree some days before the big day and trim it with Christmas tree balls, tinsel and sometimes even sweets.
On the evening of the 24th people open their presents (the so called ‘Bescherung’). But only the good children get presents, while the bad children are left with a birch. Afterwards the whole family has dinner. Typical German food for Christmas is potato salad with Wiener or smoked pork chop. On the 25th and 26th other relatives are visited. On these two official bank holidays, Germans usually eat duck or goose with red cabbage and dumplings.
What is Christmas like in your country? Do you have any special traditions to share?
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