In Germany, Christmas celebrations are largely based around the period of Advent in December, and several types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional style made of card that’s used in many countries, German people also like to go all out and create more elaborate calendars from a wreath of Fir tree branches, each of which has 24 decorated boxes or bags containing a present hanging from it.
The putting up of Christmas trees is also an important activity in Germany, which was the first country to celebrate the festive period by decorating trees. Traditionally, the Christmas tree was brought into the house on Christmas Eve, and trees were kept hidden from young children in the house and decorated by the mother of the family to give an illusion of magic.
Because it centres on Advent, Christmas in Germany can also be quite a religious affair, and in some parts of Germany families read the Bible and sing Christmas songs about the birth of Jesus during the evening.
Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration, when Germans exchange presents with their families. Germans wish each other ‘Frohe Weihnachten’ (Fro-huh Vine-ack-ten), or Happy/Merry Christmas. Some Germans refer to Christmas as the “Erste Feiertag”, or first celebration, and the 26th December as the “Zweite Feiertag”, or ‘second celebration’.
In parts of Germany, children write to the ‘das Christkind/Christkindl’ for presents, and their letters are decorated with sugar glued to the envelope to make them sparkly, before they’re left on the windowsill for Advent. The ‘Christkind’ translates as ‘The Christ Child’ in English, but of course, Germans don’t think of the Christkind as the baby Jesus; rather, the Christkind is often described as a young girl with Christ-like qualities.
In fact, in Nürnberg in central Germany, a young girl is chosen every year to participate in a parade as the Christkind, and she wears a long white and gold dress, gold crown, and sometimes wings like an angel. The Nürnberg Christkind officially opens the Christmas market on the Friday before Advent starts. German cities are well-known for their Christmas markets, which last throughout the winter through to the spring time.
German children are also visited by Santa Claus (der Weihnachtsmann), who brings the main Christmas presents on December 24th. As well as hoping for presents from Christkind or der Weihnachtsmann, children also hope that ‘der Nikolaus’ will bring you some small gifts, such as sweets and chocolate on the 6th December (St Nicholas’s Day).
In some regions of Germany, there is a character called “Knecht Ruprecht” or “Krampus” who accompanies Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) on the 6th of December. He is big horned monster clothed in rags and carries a birch, and who punishes children who were bad and will give them a birch as a present ton be beaten with!