Christmas - Germany

A German Christmas

Brandenburg Gate ⓒ Mathias Kaden

  Frohe Weihnachten! Frohes Neues Jahr!

  • Christmas Presents - Weihnachtsgeschenke

    Christmas starts early in Germany. On the night of December 5th-6th, Nikolaustag, St. Nicholas Day, children leave their shoes or boots outside the front door.

    That night, Santa Claus, Nikolaus, visits and fills them with chocolates, oranges and nuts if they’ve been good. Nikolaus also has a sidekick, in the form of his servant Knecht Ruprecht, who leaves bundles of twigs in the shoes if the children have been naughty and are listed in his ‘black book’.

    In some parts of the country, it’s believed the Christ Child, das Christkind sends a messenger on Christmas Eve, an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. There's also a figure called der Weihnachtsmann, who looks like Santa Claus and also brings presents.

    In some homes, it's traditional for parents to prepare a room for Christmas and then lock it up. A bell is rung as a signal for children to enter the room where they are delighted to find the tree lit up with presents awaiting them underneath it. There are also fruit, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and biscuits to eat, carols are sung, the Christmas story is read and children open their presents. This magical event, for many families, takes place on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, before attending mass at 4pm, returning home at 6pm to eat, read the Christmas story and then open their presents.

  • Food and Drink - Essen und Trinken

    The Germans often have special baking evenings for making spiced cakes, cookies and gingerbread houses. The German Christmas tree pastry, das Christbaumgebäck, is a white dough which is moulded into shapes and baked to make tree decorations.

    On Christmas Eve, there's an evening feast, generally of carp and potato salad - meat is avoided for religious reasons.

    On Christmas Day the family tucks into suckling pig or roasted goose, white sausage, macaroni salad, and regional dishes, der Christstollen, long loaves of bread with nuts, raisins, lemon and dried fruit, der Lebkuchen, ginger spice cookies, das Marzipan and der Dresdner Stollen, a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit and marzipan.

  • Quirky Customs - Schräge Gebräuche

    Germans know it's New Year's Eve when they watch a short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s on primetime TV. Strangely, 'Dinner for One or the 90th Birthday' has become a German New Year's tradition, even though it is unknown in Britain, where it was created!

  • A German Carol - Ein Deutsches Weihnachtslied

    Stille Nacht, Silent Night

    Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
    Alles schläft; einsam wacht,
    nur das traute heilige Paar.
    Holder Knab' im lockigem Haar,
    schlaf in himmlischer Ruh,
    schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

    Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
    Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
    Lieb' aus deinem göttlichem Mund,
    da schlägt uns die rettende Stund.
    Jesus in deiner Geburt!
    Jesus in deiner Geburt!

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