Weihnachten (Christmas) is my favourite holiday! I was really looking forward to experiencing my first Christmas season here in Germany. One of the fun parts of living abroad is discovering cultural traditions and adopting them into your family. So far, I’ve adopted 2 German Christmas traditions that I love!
Since the end of November, people have started to decorate. From cute windowsill displays to the giant Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree) in our town square, everything is feeling very festive! I’m not sure if people follow any sort of “rules” regarding when Christmas decorating should happen. It’s not like the US where most people wait until after Thanksgiving since Erntedankfest (Thanksgiving) in Germany is the first Sunday of October. It could be that people want to have their decor up for the first Advent like I talk about below. If you’re German, when do you like to decorate for Christmas?
In the north-west region of Germany that we live in, close to the Netherlands, the weather is fairly temperate. While my family back home in the British Columbia Interior are experiencing a little snow and freezing temperatures, the past few days here have gotten to above 10˚C! I may not experience a ‘White Christmas’, but is still feels Christmassy here nonetheless!
Being so far from my Canadian family during Christmastime is not easy. This will be the first Christmas I’ve ever been away from home, but since my husband is German, celebrating traditions with him that he already loves makes it feel like home.
I’m sure there are a lot of people in North America who celebrate the weeks leading up to Christmas with advent wreaths. I didn’t know about them until I met my husband back in 2012! In short, the 4 Sunday’s leading up to Christmas are known as the first to fourth advent. A new candle is lit each Sunday and some wreaths also have a fifth candle for Heiligabend (Christmas Eve). While Christian denominations have been celebrating Advent for hundreds of years, the modern wreath first took shape within the Lutheran church in the mid-1800’s.
Since Sundays in Germany are such quiet, relaxing, family days, which I talked about here, this tradition fits in with the culture quite nicely. The wreaths were for sale at my local Supermarkt (grocery store), but I also saw them at the weekly market at the town square. I don’t remember ever seeing Advent wreaths for sale before in Canada, but I also never looked. That’s one thing I find about being in a different country, I’m constantly noticing things I would have never looked at before!
In North America, children celebrate Halloween by asking strangers to fill their bags with candy. In Germany, they celebrate Sankt Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas) and children shine their boots so an old man can fill it with chocolate! Personally, I’d rather just have to clean a boot than go door-to-door in the cold to get my sweets! Jokes aside, Germans take Nikolaus very seriously and it’s celebrated by the majority of people!
Saint Nicholas was the patron Saint of Children, among other things, and known for his secret gift-giving. Now, on the eve of December 6th, the Day Nicolaus died in 346, children clean their boots and leave them outside for Nicholaus. Making sure the boot is clean is important to show that they’ve been good! When the children wake up in the morning, their boots are filled with chocolate! If you’re German, leave a comment on how you celebrate Nicholas! Do adults celebrate this as well?
This is definitely a tradition that I look forward to celebrating with my little one! What’s your favourite tradition to celebrate this time of year with you family? If you want to read more on Nicholaus and how he’s different from Santa Claus, you can read this article here!
Perhaps the cold weather talk isn’t for you and you’d rather read about warmer time, in which case, you can read my Autumn in Germany post!
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll be talking about some new foods I’ve tried that you can find in Germany this time of year!