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Everything to Know About Christmas in Germany

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The Christmas holiday in Germany begins on December 24th and ends on the 26th. Most Germans work a half-day on the 24th (Christmas Eve), 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.

Weather in Germany During Christmastime

Snow Covered Winter Village in Germany
DanKe / Shutterstock

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 visit a town 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 will surely have the time of your life. Whether you visit Germany during the Holiday Season for business or pleasure, you will have much to discuss when you return home. The way Germans celebrate this holiday is not much different from Americans’.

Of course, the main tradition is the Christmas tree with the presents underneath. In the U.S., you will find lights everywhere. Stockings are also traditional, 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 sleigh pulled by rain deer.

Children are always excited to see what Santa left them under the tree. Let’s discuss some 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 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. The town’s mayor traditionally opens the Christmas market by lighting an enormous tree.

You can go to the markets with your family to enjoy Christmas and take in every wonderful thing this season brings. Markets are usually held in a public, open area in the city center. You 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; getting a spot anywhere near a Christmas market is almost impossible. If you wish to drive, there is one option: parking in a garage and paying approximately 2 EURO/hour, but I will warn you: the Gluehwein tends to sneak up on you ;-).

Inside the Cologne Christmas Market

During these fests, you can experience several things. Below are just a few of the more traditional ones.

  • Gluehwein (Mulled Wine) – This is a very popular alcoholic drink during the Christmas holiday in Germany. Gluehwein is a warm red wine served in small shacks at these fests. Gluehwein is normally only served during Christmas, but you can purchase it year-round at a German liquor store.
  • Gingerbread (Lebkuchen)—Traditional gingerbread is covered in chocolate. You will see several decorated shapes and sizes as you wander the fest. The city of Nuremberg provides the most famous gingerbread found all over Germany during the holiday season.
  • Nutcracker Soldiers and Drummers—These famous figurines can be found throughout any fest. They range from miniature sizes to extremely large and have several different styles.
  • Chestnuts (Maronen) – Just like the famous song, chestnuts are ‘roasted on an open fire’ and served to you very warmly. You will also notice many people munching on these goodies throughout the fests.

Visit our German Christmas Food page for 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 slowly dying out is using 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.

Her younger siblings often help her. Another tradition slowly dying out is hanging straw figures 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 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 sleep. The parents then wake the children and take them to see the tree all lit up with the presents under it.

See Related: Germany Currency: Everything You Need to Know

Other German Christmas Traditions

Panorama of Christmas Market in Frankfurt
  • Advent calendars – These calendars 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.
  • 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 popular in Germany. It is made with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Use this great recipe for German butter cookies this season. Another popular Christmas dessert is Stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake that is a fruitcake 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.

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

FAQ

Where is the best Christmas market in Germany?

The best Christmas market in Germany is held in Nuremberg. It is often called ‘Das Christkindlesmarkt’ or 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 a Christmas Tree in Germany?

The Christmas tree in Germany is called Weihnachtsbaum. The Reformers introduced it to Germany in the 16th century.

What do they call Christmas in Germany?

Germans call Christmas “Weihnachten.” It is a shortened word from “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 is Santa Claus called 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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