Four German Christmas traditions

Photo by Kira Auf der Heide on Unsplash

Photo by Kira Auf der Heide on Unsplash

Adventskränze (advent wreaths)

Advent is a beautiful time of the year, isn’t it? The joy of opening an advent calendar every morning (no shame in still having one, or two!), the countdown to Christmas and regular trips to the Christmas markets get us all in the festive spirit. Not to be forgotten about are advent wreaths, or “Adventskränze”. They are beautifully designed wreaths with four candles, which are lit every Sunday in advent, one by one, until finally, on the Sunday before Christmas Eve, all four candles are burning. There’s even a little poem for it:

Advent, Advent,

ein Lichtlein brennt.

Erst eins, dann zwei,

dann drei, dann vier,

dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas’ Day)

On the 6th of December, St. Nikolaus comes to nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools, to talk to the kids about whether they were naughty or nice that year. The evening before, kids will put a shoe outside their bedroom door (occasionally outside the flat/house) and parents, ehm, I mean, St. Nikolaus fills it with sweeties during the night. I guess this is the German version of stocking fillers! This tradition is based on religious figure Saint Nicholas of Myra, whose death day falls on the 6th of December. Did you know that in Luxembourg, it’s tradition to give more presents on this day than on Christmas?

Photo by Hai Nguyen on Unsplash

Photo by Hai Nguyen on Unsplash

The traditional Christmas Eve food: Potato salad and sausages

You can pick your jaw up from your floor now. Yes, indeed, the traditional food that a lot of German households eat on Christmas Eve is potato salad and sausages (Kartoffelsalat und Würstchen). And not just any potato salad, oh no. There’s a deep divide between North and South Germany about how to create this beautiful dinner: Whilst the Northerners tend to combine some salad cream or mayonnaise with their potatoes, Southerners stick to the traditional olive oil and vinegar dressing. Then there’s the optional additions: Fleischwurst, a type of meat you can put on bread, Essiggürkchen, which are pickles, Speck (bacon), Zwiebelchen (small onions) – the list goes on. Where this tradition comes from? I have no idea. Rumour has it that it’s simply still present from old times, where a lot of families couldn’t afford to eat a luxurious meal.

Photo by Francois Pistorius on Unsplash

Photo by Francois Pistorius on Unsplash

The traditional Christmas Day food: Goose

Christmas Day is when extended families come together. Whilst most Germans celebrate Christmas Eve with only their very nearest and dearest, for example parents with their children, Christmas Day is when grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins make an appearance, too. And that calls for a bit more food than just potato salad and sausages! Goose, brussel sprouts, red cabbage (with apple or without), peas and carrots, gravy, (mashed) potatoes – the lot. Most likely, there will also be soup or salad (or both) as entrées and either ice cream, cake or Pudding for pudding.

This post first appeared over on my Facebook page.