Germany – A European Christmas Story

In German Happy Christmas is ‘Frohe Weihnachten’; Christmas Day is called ‘Erste Feiertag which translates to the first celebration and the 26th December is known as ‘Zweite Feiertag’ the second celebration.

Christmas eve is the main time for families to exchange presents, der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) brings the main presents but some traditions say they may also be brought by Christkind.

Das Christkind translates as the Christ Child but this isn’t a reflection of the baby Jesus as you would imagine, the Christ Child is often described as a young girl with Christ like qualities. Often a young girl is chosen to play the part of the Christ Child and they will appear on TV and participate in parades through the town. She wears a long white dress and has long blonde curly hair, she wears a gold crown and sometimes will have wings like an angel.

In some parts of Germany children will write letters to Das Christkind or Weihnachtsmann asking for presents. The letters are decorated with sugar glued to the envelopes to make them sparkly, children will leave these letters on their windowsill at the beginning of advent.

Children in Germany also hope that der Nikolaus will bring small gifts such as sweets or chocolate on the 6th December (St Nicholas’s day). It is believed that der Nikolaus comes in the night between the 5th and 6th December and puts the small gifts inside the shoes of children. Children will place their shoes in doorways in preparation. Although der Nikolaus visits in December he is not officially part of Christmas.

Another tradition in Germany is the Sternsinger or star singers, they go from house to house singing and collecting money for charity. The singers are normally children with four of them dressing up like the wise men, one carries a star on a stick as a symbol of the star of Bethlehem. After they have sung their song the group will write a signature with chalk on the door of the house. It is considered bad luck if you wash away the sign, it must fade by itself. This tradition normally takes place on the 6th January (Epiphany).

A personal story:

Christmas celebrations start in Germany on Christmas Eve, that’s when Father Christmas (Weihnachtsmann) comes. Most people go to Church about 4 Pm, afterwards all the family get together at home

When I’ve lit all the candles and put the church bells CD on, everybody’s allowed to go into the room where the Christmas Tree is, it’s always exciting because Father Christmas has been while we were all in the Church and put all the presents under the Tree. 

The fondest memories are when the kiddies were smaller and really believed that Father Christmas had put all the presents under the Tree. 

The kiddies get the most presents, like this year my granddaughter (13) wished for Roller-skates, a helmet, Monopoly and a few other things. I got a photobook from both my granddaughters last year from when we were in England, otherwise presents are like the ones you receive in England – Perfume, Concert Tickets, Books, Games and Jewellery. We don’t give presents among friends much, usually a self-made Liquor or a bottle of Wine or Prosecco. 

After everybody’s opened their presents we have our meal. We always have Raclette, that usually takes about 1, 1/2 hours.

After we’ve eaten we sing Christmas carols or when my granddaughters were smaller they used to say short Christmas porös.

Christmas Day, everybody gets together again, there’s usually 10 of us altogether, we always go to my daughters house because it’s my younger granddaughter’s birthday as well. 

For dinner we have, Turkey or Goose with red cabbage and bread dumplings (Semmel Knödel), they’re recipes from Bavaria, (South Germany) where my husband’s parents came from. 

Goose or Turkey is what most people have. 

Our Christmas celebrations in Germany are more or less the same all over except for the food. 

A lot of people used to eat Sausages and Potato Salad at Christmas Eve because they’d been busy all day.  They didn’t put their Christmas Tree up till Christmas Eve.  Some still do.  In Bavaria they say the Christkind (Christchild) brings the presents and not Father Christmas. (Weihnachtsmann).  

The writing stays on the wall, like ours is from January 2020. The 20 is for the year, C for Casper, M for Melchior, B for Balthasar then 20 again. On the other side of the doorway they renewed the writing, that’s from 2004. When they come next year they’ll just change the 20 to 21.

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