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Everything to Know About Christmas in Germany

Everything to Know About Christmas in Germany

The Christmas holiday in Germany begins on December 24th and ends on the 26th. On the 24th (Christmas Eve), most Germans work a half-day and shops are open until the early afternoon.

Gifts are usually open on the evening of the 24th. Christmas day is a little different. Unlike the U.S., Germany celebrates two Christmas days, the 25th and the 26th.

Christmas weather in Germany is usually around 28-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow is not very common during this time. You may get lucky if you are visiting a town that is located at a higher elevation. On average Germany probably gets snow one out of five years in lower areas. Christmas in Germany may be one of the most unique Christmas experiences you have ever had.

With the famous Christmas markets in almost every town you come across, you are sure to have the time of your life. Whether you visit Germany during the Holiday Season for business or pleasure, you will have a lot to talk about when you return home. The way Germans celebrate this holiday is not much different than the way Americans do.

The tradition of the Christmas tree with the presents underneath is of course the main tradition. You will find lights all over the place as you will in the U.S.

Stockings are traditional as well, as they are hung and filled with goodies for the kids. Santa Claus (Weihnachtsmann) is no different. The big-bearded man dressed in red, rides in a slay pulled by rain deer. Children are always excited to see what Santa left them under the tree. Let’s talk about some of the things you will experience during the Christmas holiday in Germany.

Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt)

Striezelmarkt Christmas Market in Dresden

Possibly the number one attraction during Christmas time in Germany. These exciting Christmas markets in Germany usually start toward the end of November and end on the 22nd or 23rd of December in bigger cities like Frankfurt, Berlin, and Munich.

In smaller cities, they are normally held on one weekend in December. Each town holds its own Christmas market so it is not uncommon for them to be held on different weekends. Traditionally, the Mayor of the town opens the Christmas market by lighting an enormous tree.

They are a place you can go with your family to enjoy the Christmas season and take in every wonderful thing this season brings. Markets are usually held at the city center in a public, open area. You just walk up to the area and enjoy. You may not want to drive to the markets though.

Germany has very limited parking spots during normal months and it is almost impossible to get a parking spot anywhere close to a Christmas market.

There is one option if you wish to drive, you can park in a garage and pay approx. 2 EURO/hour but I will warn you, the Gluehwein tends to sneak up on you ;-).

Inside the Cologne Christmas Market

There are several things to experience during these fests. Below are just a few of the more traditional ones.

  • Gluehwein (Glow Wine) – This is a very popular alcoholic drink during the Christmas holiday in Germany. Gluehwein is a warm red wine that is served out of small shacks at these fests. Gluehwein is normally only served during the Christmas season but you can purchase it year-round at a German liquor store.
  • Gingerbread (Lebkuchen) – The traditional gingerbread that you will see is covered in chocolate. You will see several shapes and sizes, decorated or not as you wander through the fest. The city of Nuremberg provides the most famous gingerbread that can be found all over Germany during the holiday season.
  • Nutcracker Soldiers and Drummers – These famous figurines can be found throughout any fest you visit as well. They range from miniature sizes to extremely large and there are several different styles to choose from.
  • Chestnuts (Maronen) – Just like the famous song, chestnuts are ‘roasted on an open fire’ and served to you very warmly. You will notice many people munching on these goodies throughout the fests as well.

Visit our German Christmas Food page for a list of all of the most popular and authentic German Christmas foods, dishes, and drinks.

Christmas Tree (Weihnachtsbaum)

Christmas Tree in a Snowy Square in Germany

In Germany, the Christmas trees are usually brought into the house on December 24th and set up by the parents. It is decorated with Christmas decorations such as colored fairy lights, ornaments, and tinsel. Presents are then placed under the tree and opened on Christmas morning.

One tradition that is slowly dying out is the use of a Kriss Kringle (Christkind). A christ child, usually the oldest daughter, dresses up as Christkind and brings the presents to the family on Christmas eve. She is often helped by her younger siblings.

Another tradition that is slowly dying out is the hanging of straw figures (Kurtzweil) on the tree. These straw figures represent animals, birds, people, and things.

See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in Germany

Santa Claus (Weihnachtsmann)

Saint Nicholas at Christmas Market

Santa Claus is a very popular figure in Germany during the Christmas season. He is known as ‘Weihnachtsmann’. Children write letters to him telling him what they want for Christmas and put them in their shoes on the windowsill.

On Christmas Eve, the parents usually hide the presents and put them under the tree. The children are not allowed to open them until they have gone to sleep. The parents then wake the children up and take them to see the tree all lit up with the presents under it.

Other German Christmas Traditions

  • Advent calendars – These are calendars that usually have 24 little doors to open. Behind each door is a picture of small chocolate. The calendar is open every day from December 1st to December 24th.
  • Wearing Christmas hats and sweaters – Germans love to get into the Christmas spirit by wearing hats and sweaters with Christmas designs on them.
  • Decorating the house with lights, garland, and holly – Germans love to decorate their houses with garlands, wreaths, and Christmas lights.
  • Singing Christmas carols – This is a beloved German tradition. Germans love to sing Christmas carols, especially at Christmas markets where they often sing around the Christmas tree. It is not uncommon to see groups of young children singing or even marching through the streets on their way to or from school.
  • Eating Weihnachtsplätzchen (Christmas cookies) and Stollen (fruitcake) – Weihnachtsplätzchen is a type of Christmas cookie that is popular in Germany. They are made with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Another popular Christmas dessert is Stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake which is a fruitcake that is drenched in rum and served with powdered sugar on top.
  • Gift loved ones with Christmas presents – Christmas is a time when Germans often give presents to their friends and loved ones. Often, the gifts are personalized with Christmas wrapping paper and bows.
  • Spending time with family – One of the most important traditions during Christmas in Germany is spending time with your family. This can be done by cooking traditional German Christmas dishes together or simply just gathering around the Christmas tree and enjoying each other’s company.
Panorama of Christmas Market in Frankfurt

Conclusion

German Christmas celebrations are similar to some other countries but there are just a few differences. Just like others they also have Christmas songs, gifts, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and Christmas Angels in celebrating Christmas.

FAQ

Where is the best Christmas market in Germany?

The best Christmas market in Germany is the one held in Nuremberg. It is often called ‘Das Christkindlesmarkt’ and also the Berlin Christmas market.

Do they also have an advent wreath in Germany?

Yes, they do have advent wreaths in Germany. It is a popular tradition to light the candles on the wreath each week leading up to Christmas.

What is Christmas Tree in Germany?

The Christmas tree in Germany is called Weihnachtsbaum. It was introduced to Germany by the reformers, during the 16th century.

What do they call Christmas in Germany?

Germans call Christmas “Weihnachten”. It is a shortened word that comes from the words “weihnachtlich” and “christlich”. “Weihnachtlich” means “related to Christmas” and “christlich” means “Christian”. So, altogether, the word “Weihnachten” means “Christmas-like”.

What is Stollen?

Stollen is a type of fruitcake that is popular in Germany during Christmas. It is usually drenched in rum and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

What do they call Santa Claus in Germany?

Germans call Santa “Sankt Nikolaus”. He is often depicted wearing a bishop’s outfit, rather than the usual red suit.

What is Christkindl in Germany?

The Christkindl is a Christmas angel that is popular in Germany. She is often depicted as a small child or baby and is responsible for bringing Christmas gifts to children.

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