- Culture & Society
Christmas in Germany - A magical festival
24 Dec 2021
Christmas is the most important festival of the year in Germany, both for Christians and non-believers, and sometimes even for people from other religions. The celebration of the birth of Jesus has been secularised over time and the theological aspect has receded into the background. Attempts to trace Christmas back to Germanic customs are controversial. Nevertheless, festivals such as the winter solstice and Yule are in close proximity to Christmas and are sometimes given as the reason for the celebrations. In any case, Christmas is a family holiday where a sense of family is at the forefront - after all it is called the festival of love.
Do you want to know how Christmas is celebrated in other countries of Europe? Read here!
The influence of Christianity is more noticeable in southern Germany. There, many people go to church at Christmas, i.e. on 24th of December, and the presents are brought by the Christ Child. Going to church is the most important aspect of the holiday for some throughout Germany, for others it is the only visit to church all year. The atmosphere in church is particularly Christmassy and awe-inspiring. People sing and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
In the days leading up to Christmas, the streets and shops are filled with people shopping for gifts for their loved ones. No wonder that most shops have their highest sales of the year in the week before Christmas. Children, however, are told that the presents will be brought by either Father Christmas or the Christ Child. They write or draw wish lists for them and wait anxiously to see if their wishes will be fulfilled. Since Advent often begins in November, the excitement and anticipation of Christmas builds up and reaches its peak on 24th of December.
Do you know that Germans shorten the wait during the Advent time until Christmas with a special calendar? Find out more here!
On 24th of December, the time has finally come. If the Christmas tree is not yet decorated, it is hung with lights and ornaments in the morning. The presents are labelled with name tags and later placed underneath the tree. During the day, preparations are in full swing. The last presents are wrapped, the roast is put in the oven and the most beautiful clothes are put on. To distract themselves, children are often sent for a walk or to the cinema.
As soon as it is dark, which in Germany is already at 3:30 pm in December, Christmas begins. Everything lights up in a bright glow, the Christmas tree, the laid table and most of all the expectant glowing eyes of the children. The family comes together to finally celebrate. Christmas Eve is often spent in close family circles with grandparents, uncles and aunts. The following two Christmas holidays on 25th and 26th of December are spent visiting the rest of the family, who may be spread all over Germany.
In families with young children, it is customary for a relative or friend to dress up as Father Christmas on 24th of December and bring the presents in a large sack. The children then often show what they have learned in the past year and recite a poem to Father Christmas, sing or play something on their instruments. When Santa is satisfied, he distributes the presents.
German Christmas food varies from region to region and from family to family. The most popular Christmas meals for dinner are sausages with potato salad, roast goose or duck with red cabbage and dumplings and Raclette or Fondue. Other lesser-known Christmas meals are Bratwurst or Pasta. Gingerbread and Christmas biscuits are available throughout the evening.
After everyone has had their fill and the presents have been unwrapped, board or card games are often played. Some also watch typical Christmas films such as "Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel". The whole evening is dedicated to the family and so each family has their own Christmas traditions. If there are children in the family, they often infect the adults with their enthusiasm. But whether with or without children, whether with family or friends, whether going to church or not, there is something magical about Christmas.
Written by: Tanja Holbe
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