Friday, December 25, 2009

German Christmas Traditions

Our friends Mae and Buck had asked us to send them some German Christmas traditions because at the campus ministry they work at in Thailand, they were celebrating Christmas around the world. Since we live in Germany we should be experts right? Well it did give a good reason to ask all our German friends some traditions they partake in every year. Some things are very similar, but some are new and very enjoyable. We thought we would share a few we have discovered this year. I don't know if all of these traditions are actually practiced, but I liked them. Most of them are definitely a staple in a German Christmas.

1.  Advent - this is a major part of the culture here, where they start 4 sundays before christmas and count down the days until christmas with an advent calendar (started november 29th this year).  most kids have an advent calendar and get to open a little window for each day, revealing a small toy or candy.  they also make advent wreaths out of fir or pine trees and light four candles which all have meanings on each sunday leading up to christmas.

2.  Christmas Markets - we've talked about these plenty on our blog, but they basically include lots of handmade crafts such as ornaments, carvings, candles, sausages, etc.

3.  Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Gluhwein - seems to be served at all markets and is a seasonal treat here

4.  Christkindle - an angellic figure that brings presents on christmas eve (called "Heiligabend", or Holy Eve); the way it works, is the family goes to a christmas mass or service while one family member stays at home and decorates the tree and puts the gifts under the tree.  When the children come home, the door is locked and they cannot enter until they hear a bell ring, signifying that the christkindle has left.  They walk in to a home lit only by the lights on the tree (or candles).  the family sings christmas carols ("silent night" is the most popular), play music on flutes and/or guitars, and opens gifts together - the gift exchange is called "Bescherung"

5.  St. Nikolaus - while Santa Claus is not a traditional figure here, St. Nikolaus day is December 6th and features a santa claus looking figure that delivers gifts and sweets to children around Germany; traditionally children put boots ("Nikolaus Stiefel" or nikolaus boots) on their front porch filled with carrots and hay for the horses (not reindeer) - if the children have been good, then they will find their boots filled with fruit, nuts, candy, and small gifts; however, if they haven't been good they will find a tree branch (the U.S. has a larger supply of coal i think)  **note:  ze Germans seem to really like to make a distinction here that the "Christkindle" brings the presents on christmas eve and is more of a christlike figure, and the santa claus type figure is completely separate; Santa Claus is actually another figure, known as "Weihnachtsman"

6.  Food - the traditional meal usually consists of duck, goose or turkey and is eaten on christmas day; on christmas eve they eat sausage and potato salad.

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