Christmas … the holiday celebrated around the world! Traditions, some of them hundreds of years old, fill European Christmases. With this in mind, let’s look at how Germany celebrates Christmas through Advent, gift-giving and Christmas trees.
Advent in Germany
Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. During Advent, many families in Germany display an Advent calendar and Advent wreath.
Advent Calendar (Adventskalendar)
The calendar countdown begins December 1. Each day children (or adults!) open a numbered door/window to reveal a pretty scene or chocolate treat.
Santa flies above the rooftops in this German-made Advent calendar.
All things considered, you might want an Advent calendar for everyone in your family! Shop Bronner’s Advent calendars.
You can also make your own Advent calendar.
Advent Wreath (Advenskranz)
Also at this time, many families in Germany place an Advent wreath on a table in the home. The natural evergreen wreath holds four large candles, traditionally red in color. Often a fifth candle is place in the center to represent Jesus Christ. In addition, the Advent wreath may be trimmed with pinecones and berries. With this in mind, the circular shape and evergreen of the wreath represent the everlasting and undying love of God.
Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, one candle in the wreath is lit. The family spends some quiet, reflective time together. Some may sing carols; others might watch a movie together and enjoy treats of the season. By the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Finally, the Christ candle is lit with the others on Christmas Eve. All in all, the candlelight and pine scent are especially welcome in traditional homes where the Christmas tree is not unveiled until Christmas Eve.
In contrast, the colors of Advent-wreath candles in the U.S. are usually some combination of pink, purple and white.
Bronner’s offers a variety of Advent wreaths. You can start with an artificial evergreen wreath and add your personal touches. Or you can choose a modern wreath.
An even simpler option for Advent is the Advent countdown taper candle, made in Germany. You simply light and burn the candle from mark to mark each of the 24 days of Advent beginning December 1.
Wondering how to store your Christmas decorations when Christmas is over?
How Germany Celebrates Christmas Through Gift-Giving
St. Nicholas Day
December 6 is St. Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag) in Germany. Given that, children clean and polish their boots or shoes and set them (one or both) outside the door the evening of December 5. If they have been good children, they awake December 6 to boots or shoes filled with candy, nuts, chocolate, fruit and other small gifts from St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra (now in Turkey) known for his generosity. One November weekend each year, Father Joseph Marquis visits Bronner’s and tells the story “St. Nicholas: From Saint to Santa.” Overall, the half-hour performance involves audience participation and is a memorable experience for children of all ages.
The Christkind as Gift-Giver
The Christkind (translated Christ Child) delivers gifts to children in Germany on Christmas Eve. This tradition is an important part of how Germany celebrates Christmas. It began in the 1600s when Martin Luther was leading the Protestant Reformation. Up until that time, children in Germany received gifts on St. Nicholas Day, December 6.
However, Luther wanted to turn attention away from the Catholic saints. He named the Christ Child as the gift-giver on Christmas Eve. Indeed, he desired to link the giving of gifts to the greatest gift, Christ the Savior.
Over time, the Christkind evolved from a babe into a golden-haired female angel with Christ-like qualities. Often, parents ring a bell or the doorbell to signal the arrival or departure of the Christkind, who leaves gifts for the children under the family’s Christmas tree.
Celebrate the tradition of the Christkind by adding our gold wire angel ornament to your tree this Christmas.
The Christmas Tree (Weihnachtsbaum) in Germany
About 400 years ago, German families began bringing evergreen trees into their homes at Christmas time. Moreover, they decorated the trees with edible items like apples, gingerbread and nuts. By the mid-1800s, glassblowers were making glass ornaments in the Lauscha region of Germany.
Consequently, today’s Christmas tree in Germany is decorated with candles or strings of lights, intricate glass heirloom ornaments, and decorative candy, chocolates and cookies. Indeed, the majority of Germans prefer a real, not artificial tree.
See TIPS from Bronner’s Decorator’s for How to Decorate a Christmas Tree.
In traditional German homes, the decorated Christmas tree is not unveiled until Christmas Eve. At this time, the Christkind arrives to place gifts for the children under the tree.
Time for a new Christmas tree at your house?