Frohe Weihnachten! Brig is giving the gift of a geographical Christmas this year and it is time to jump into Germany. What’s so wonderful about Weihnachten? Well, let’s find out!
The beginning of December sees German families adventuring into Advent, with a calendar counting down the days and a wreath decorating the home.
Most of us will be familiar with the advent calendar, but not everybody knows that it has its origin in Germany. Traditional calendars were religious in nature, with a devotional image behind every flap but today children expect sweets or a small toy when they open the door.
Not only can Germany boast claims to the first advent calendar, but to the largest one as well! Every year the town hall of Gengenbach is transformed into a gigantic advent calendar, opening a new festive window every night until Christmas.
Advent isn’t all about sweets and treats however, with the Advent Wreath making its mark in German homes since the 16th century. Four Sundays before December 25, it is prepared with festive foliage and a candle to be lit each Sunday leading up to the big day. Traditionally, the family would gather round the wreath for Christmas carols and quality time and today its presence warms the living room with the scents of pine and berries.
From Christmas decorations, to Christmas characters, Germany has it all. Say Hallo to St Nicholas, the Christkind and Krampus. St Nicholas’ Day is celebrated on December 6th with children leaving out their shoes to be filled with small gifts by St Nich’ himself, or they may even catch him singing at their door! Presents can also be expected by the Christkind, to who children write letters to, but only if she’s not too busy. The Christkind spends December spreading cheer to Germany, visiting hospitals, care homes, and the occasional Christmas market.
But look out, because Krampus is about! In some regions St Nicholas doesn’t travel alone but is followed by a horned monster intent on scaring children who have been bad. Spooky, right? And I thought coal was a nightmare.
But where there’s gloom, there’s glitter. And lots of it! The Christmas Markets are the sight to see, scent to smell, and taste to try in Germany. With bratwurst, bakeries, and beautiful gifts, there’s something for everyone. Bored of shopping? Take a break and ice-skate off all that apfelstrudel. The atmosphere at these markets is one that won’t be quickly forgotten and will be very much missed this year. Let’s hope Christmas next year will see Germany toasting their mulled wine and strolling through the fun-filled festival centres.
Once the advents have been set and the markets have been marched, it’s time for the big day, or should I say night? Christmas Eve is the main celebration in Germany, unlike in the UK. Stewart Phillips, who moved from the UK to Germany when he was seventeen describes what makes this day so special.
“The family put the tree up that day together after their meal. The children are sent out and santa visits with presents. Children then come back in and the family open presents together. The kids have to wait all day for this and then only have a small amount of time to enjoy before bed,” He explains.
If the presents have been passed, and the dinner devoured, what’s next for the German Christmas? Christmas day and the day after are public holidays, allowing people to relax and spend time together after the hectic Christmas season.
In parts of Germany, there may be a visit from the Sternsingers (star singers) between December 27th and January 6th. Dressed up like the Wise Men and the Star of Bethlehem, the tradition sees singers chalking a sign above the door of houses they visit. Just as the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus, the Sternsingers goal is to bring gifts to the world by raising funds for aid projects worldwide.
Germany has everything to offer at Christmas, from festive foods, gorgeous gifts, and exciting events. There’s another place for the post-covid bucket list.
Featured image credit: crosswalk.com