I just arrived in Germany and am looking forward to hanging out with family and friends and enjoying Advent in Germany aka the German pre-Christmas season. It’s been very Chirstmas-y in Texas ever since Thanksgiving: The stores were decorated, everything was on sale, and it was insanely hard to find parking even in the huge Walmart parking lot. Many houses in our neighborhood were all lit up with little Christmas lights, and fittingly, we had our first snow of the year in early December. But there are many Christmas traditions in Germany that Texas doesn’t have.
German Traditions I (Sort of) Recreated in Texas
- I bought a typical small German Adventskalendar with 24 little chocolates and hung it up in the kitchen. You open one every day starting December 1st.
- I found a tiny real fir tree and decorated it with little wood ornaments from my childhood and German hollow chocolate ones from Worldmarket.
- I created a little makeshift Adventskranz for our dinner table in Texas. It had four little tea lights on a big red plate with fake little greens in the middle. In Germany, a traditional Adventskranz is a big wreath made of evergreen with four huge candles and small decorations on it. You light one each on the four Sundays before Christmas.
- Glühwein on the Christmas market is another German tradition. In Texas, we now have the tradition of getting together with our local friends every December before we go to the Carol of Lights, preparing the wine, and then drinking it on the way.
- I also baked a ton of German Christmas cookies. The first batch is always based on my mom’s traditional recipe for Muerbeteig. The ones that follow are out of a book on German Christmas cookies that my sister gave me years ago: Vanillekipferl, Lebkuchen, Baiser, etc.. The result was that our little house smelled like the Weihnachtsbäckerei (Christmas bakery) for most of December.
- I hung a string of little Christmas lights in front of our front door which made me happy every day I came home after work. Some of the houses in Texas went all out with their decorations instead. Big blown-up Santas, reindeer with moving heads, lights in all different colors on the house, in the trees, etc. Nuts!
German Traditions I am Looking Forward to in Germany
- Christmas cookies and goodies from the Christmas market like gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds), Bratwurst in Broetchen, Champignons, and of course litres of Gluehwein 🙂
- I’m looking forward to the many Christmas Markets in Germany. I think Cologne alone has six or so. The little stalls sell foods and little gifts and are decorated with Christmas lights. One of my favorite ones in the one by the Koelner Dom (the cathedral in Cologne) because you just can’t beat the lit up cathedral in the background.
- Most everybody’s Christmas tree in the homes is a real fir tree and many even have real candles. So much prettier than the fake stuff and so much better smelling. I see how it’s a fire hazard, but so pretty 🙂
- I also love driving by houses outside the city before Christmas because many have puts lights in their fir trees in the front yard. My sister and I used to make a competition when we were kids to see who would spot the most. My mom was driving and my sister and I were both in the back counting decorated trees. Weird how we didn’t consider that obviously you could just inflate the numbers…
Other Differences between Christmas in Texas and Christmas in Germany
- Nikolaus: On the evening of December 5th, kids clean their boots and put them in front of their doors. Over night Nikolaus comes by and fills them with chocolates and a little present if you’ve been good over the year. If you’ve been bad, you get small tree branches from Knecht Ruprecht instead.
- At Christmas it’s not Santa Claus, but the Christkind (Christ Child) that brings the presents – or at least it used to be when I was growing up. Anyways, the Christkind is a small angel-like child who drops of the presents when the kids are not looking. Traditionally the room with the Christmas tree is locked and the Christkind drops off the presents, then rings a little bell, and you never actually see it.
- All of this happens on Christmas Eve (December 24th), not in the morning of December 25th like in most English-speaking countries. The 25th and 26th traditionally are reserved for big family gatherings. In my family it was usually the 25th with my dad’s family and the 26th with my mom’s family.
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