German Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Is that time of the year once more. For those of you in the North Hemisphere it is winter, for those on the South it is summer, but for all of us who celebrate it, it is Christmas time!

As an expat in Germany for almost 3 years, it is only fair to share with you how the Germans celebrate Christmas, what are their traditions – which might be similar to many other countries – and which ones are my favorites. Being married to a person with different nationality often means different traditions, and that is exactly the case when a German marries a Brazilian.

After sharing with you some German habits in a previous post, I now share some of their Christmas traditions…

The tree

I was really excited to spend my first Christmas in Germany when W told me that the tradition is to buy a real Christmas tree! I know that for many of you it is the same, but in Brazil we buy fake trees made out of plastic. I love the idea of having a new REAL tree every year, and you can always pick the size you want… and the smell is great!

Christmas in Germany

I was not so excited – in fact I was disappointed – to discover that here in Germany the tree is only decorated on the 24th! I don’t know how it is in your country, but for me this is the one tradition I can’t get used to. Why only on the 24th? In many countries, including mine, the tree is ready on December 1st. Sorry, but W had to compromise a little on this one.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Adventskalender

Advent, as probably most of you know, is the name given to the four precedent Sundays to Christmas. Here in Germany – as in many other countries, especially in Europe – there are calendars that begin on the 1st of December and end on the 24th. That is why it is called Adventskalender: Advent’s Calendar.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

These calendars have a little window for each date, which contains a little surprise in each one; it can be chocolates, a message, or a gift. Some even have Whiskey and others beer! You can buy them in supermarkets, and in many different stores; and you can either buy one already with the surprise inside, or empty ones, which will allow you to arrange the gifts by yourself, making it even more interesting! Every year W makes one for me, he takes this tradition very serious… and I love it!

Christmas in Germany

Glühwein & Kinderpunsch

These two are the most popular drinks in Germany at this time of the year. Glühwein is the German word for mulled wine. Some hate it, others love it. I stay with the second option! It doesn’t only tastes good and helps with the cold winter, but it also comes in cute mugs.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Kinderpunsch, is basically the same as Glühwein, but without alcohol and little bit more sweet. It is mainly for kids, but I know some adults that love it too!

Adventskranz

It is something every German has at home. It is a wreath with four candles; they should all be lightened one at a time in every Sunday precedent to Christmas. It is mainly sold in supermarkets, flower shops and decoration stores.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Food

Hmmmm, that is probably the best part! Apart from the typical drinks of this time of the year, there is some typical food too. On Christmas dinner, it is tradition to eat duck, though throughout this season, these sweets are specifically a hint:

Pläztchen

Pläztchen are small-decorated cookies with different shapes and flavors, varying from vanilla, chocolate, walnut, macadamia, cinnamon and much more. The tradition is to bake them at home, and the homemade ones are indeed the best, though you can find them in supermarkets and bakeries too, normally in small plastic packages.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Source: lecker-ueberleben.de

Gebrannte Mandel

Roasted, covered with chocolate or vanilla, caramelized… these almonds are to die for, and their smell impregnates the streets together with glühwein. Not so cheap – around 4 Euros for 100g – though worth to be tasted!

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Baumstriezel

This one many of you might know, but with another name. It is originally called Kürtőskalács, a traditional Hungarian pastry, but it is also popular here in Germany, though it is called Baumstriezel. They have different flavors like sugar and cinnamon, vanilla, sprinkles and others. I have to confess that I am completely crazy about this thing!

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is nothing less than gingerbread, which is very famous here in Germany too. You know those cute hearts traditional of the Oktoberfest? They are made of gingerbread, and at Christmas time, they are also very common, found in many different shapes and with different phrases. They are found in every bakery, Christmas market, supermarket and even in decoration stores.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

Is there Santa Claus?

Now this tradition might be of surprise to many of you, but in many regions of Germany – especially the more catholic ones – there is no Santa Claus! That is exactly what you just read. Of course they all know Santa Claus because of the media and all, but for them, there are two other important figures that replaces Santa Claus around here: St. Nikolaus (St. Nocholas) and Christkind. Every time I say “Santa Claus”, W corrects me, I surely never got used to this tradition, but of course I respect it.

For me they are all the same, but for them it is definitely not. St. Nikolaus’ day is on December 6th, it is often said that the Santa Claus we all know was inspired by him. More about his story you can find here. On the other hand, Christkind is the “gift-bringer”, the one who actually brings the gifts!

Weihnachtsmärkte

This one I believe you all know, visited or heard about. The Weihnachtsmärkte are the so famous and loved Christmas Markets, found in probably all European countries. In Germany, every town has at least one, here in Munich there are over 15 Christmas Markets, big and small ones and in different parts of the city.

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

They are no doubt a beautiful and lovely tradition, but there will be much more about them in a few days when I will present you my top 10 favorite Christmas Markets in Munich! Don’t miss it!

Christmas in Germany, by Packing my Suitcase

What are the Christmas traditions of your country or the country you are living in? Any similarities with the German traditions? I would love to know!

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • I love your close-ups and I love the atmosphere of the german xmas markets !!! And I love Glühwein as well 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the compliment 😀
      I also looooove Christmas Markets and Glühwein… they make Christmas even more special 😀

  • A lot of things are similar here in Romania, haha: the real Christmas trees (though I prefer the artificial ones), the mulled wine (we also have a traditional drink too 😉 ), the cookies (that I just LOVE to make!), the gingerbread. And of course, the Christmas markets. I’m hoping to visit a real German one soon though. 😀

    • hahahaha really that you prefer the plastic ones? That’s interesting!! 😀
      How is the traditional drink of Romania called? Here you can find lots of different drink, even hot caipirinha and eggnog 😀
      You will have lots of fun in the Christmas Markets around here… but be sure that there will be loooots of people 😀

      • Oh I love eggnog! The drink is called “tuica fiarta”, haha. It’s made with a traditional strong drink (you can read about it here) that’s heated and mixed with some spices (pepper and cloves as far as I remember). I never tried it though, my grandfather used to make it but I was way too little back then. Forgot to say, we also had St Nicholas on the 6th! 😀

        • Tuica fiarta, what a cool name hahaha… I would like to try that, sounds very different!!!
          Me too, I love eggnog 😀 I think I will have some this week… gotta make a little tour around the Christmas Markets!

  • Oh you can only decorate the tree on 24th? Here, in Malaysia, I guess, it’s very commercialised, so Christmas decorations and the tree are up by 25th Nov. I had tried mulled wine years ago – a former office colleague invited me over for Christmas – but what a wrong type of drink to drink in the tropics hahah! Needless to say, I was perspiring after that drink 😉

    Here’s wishing you Merry Christmas in advance!

    • Yess, its weird isnt it? In Brazil is the same as in Malaysia, the trees are up already in November… I find it a bit too soon, so I prefer doing it only in December, on the first weekend 😀

      Ohhhhh I can only imagine how hot it was after you had mulled wine in a warm country haha… I guess it would be the same as drinking it in Brazil too 😀

      Awwwn Kath thank you so much, Merry Christmas to you too 😀

  • Christmas in Germany sounds perfect! At my house, we observe the decorating the tree on the 24th tradition too 😉

    • Ohhh really? Here in Europe I noticed that it is like this in many countries, I find it interesting, but truth is that mine is already up and decorated haha 😀

  • I really enjoyed this and since I just got back from the States I am ready to get my tree. I think we’ll do so withing the next week. I always decorate it early even here in Germany and nobody seems to mind. I think it fascinates children when they visit. Today I am off to my first Weihnachts Markt of the season! Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

    • Ohhh thats sounds exciting!!! I hope you have lots of fun and drink some nice Glühwein there 😀
      I have been to a few Christmas Markets this season, but I can’t get enough of it 😀 I love them!!

      Ohhh great to know that you also put your tree up earlier than normally 😀 mine is ready!!

  • Oh, I love the Christmas markets and Glühwein so much! I actually feel Christmassy here – which never happens! I didn’t know about the tree only being decorated on the 24th – interesting! Lovely post 🙂
    I think there are 60 markets in Berlin – I’ll never make them all 🙂

    • Ohhh great to know that!! Here in Germany I find it difficult not to feel Chistmassy with all the Christmas Markets hahaha… woww 60?? I believe… here in Munich there are almost 20 only in the city, plus the ones around the city 😀 I want to visit them all, but not enough time hahaha 😀
      I hope you enjoy your first Christmas in Germany!

      • Unfortunately I’m going home for Xmas but I’m really enjoying the build up here!

        • Ohhh but that is also great that you are going home, you will be with your family and all!! It will be wonderful… meanwhile you can enjoy the German Christmas Markets 😀

  • This is a wonderful look at Christmas traditions – thank you for posting it! Ah, gluhwein! Yum!

    • Thank you for the comment Renate! Happy that you liked the post 😀
      I also love glühwein 😀 hahaha

  • Hi Allane. Great post! Though the German Christmas traditions are very similar to the Norwegian, I learned some new things, as not all is the same. Especially the food is different.
    It can be challenging to celebrating Christmas in a country where the traditions are different than in yours, like with the decoration of the Christmas three as you say. But then you have to make it a bit more like home, and bring YOUR traditions like you said you do by decorating the three a bit earlier than the 24th of december. In Bolivia, they don’t take Christmas as serious as in Norway. So this year I have made a Adventskalender. My husband really like the tradition and loves to get chocolate every day, for 24 days. I also bought some candles and made an adventskranz. It feels just a little bit better to bring some traditions from home in this time of year, while living abroad. Though also experiencing other traditions that what you are used to is great! But a mix of both is always good 😉

    • Hi Hanne!! Thank you for the lovely comment 😀
      I didn’t know in Norway the traditions were so similar to Germany. That’s good to know, and also interesting!
      I guess Bolivia is a bit like Brazil, we also don’t have this culture of Adventskranz or Adventskalender… but after I discovered they exist, I love them! I surely adopted them as a tradition for me too.
      You are right that having a mix of our traditions with new ones is great!! Besides, putting a bit of our tradition makes us feel more at home 😀
      I hope you enjoy your Christmas in Bolivia, and write a post about it, I would love to know how is it like 😀

  • Sha

    So interesting to read about the many traditions! Here, it’s just shop and shop and shop…hahaha…kidding, I don’t celebrate christmas so I only find myself giving out presents as an end year gift. That’s my own tradition but it will do, right? Haha..anyway, I didn’t realise the advent calendars came from that word so now I can tell my friend, She has the same calendar in her office but I also love that your hubby makes this for you every year! So good! 🙂

    • Shop shop shop… don’t worry ahahha here its just the same 😀
      Now that’s a good idea to give “end year gift” to your friends… it is a way to celebrate!!
      Ohh great so now you can explain to her where it came from… in Brazil we dont have this tradition, so I learned it! And I love the idea, especially because hubby gives me a very cool and useful gift everyday hahaha 😀
      Would like to spend Christmas in Europe for example?

  • Our Christmas Tree is already up – and we usually keep it up till March! But I can definitely get on board with receiving booze every day of the Advent. Is that wrong? If so, I dont want to know 😛

    • hahahaha you are so funny!!
      Nooo I guess its not wrong, at least not here in Germany though 😀 😀

  • Anna

    I love German Christmas markets! They are so popular that I’ve even met a German Christmas market in Edinburgh! I also love those Hungarian pastries…tried them in Budapest some years ago! In Greece where I come from we also have real trees but not all people buy real ones. I guess in Brazil such kind of trees are not even available due to climate, so that’s why you get the option of plastic. And yes we do decorate before the 24th (and I didn’t know that about Germany!).

    • How cool!! In Edinburgh? I heard there are some in the US too, very interesting to know that!!
      About the real trees in Brazil you are right… but we actually used to have it real many years ago, probably when I wasnt even born. The south of Brazil can be very cold too, but the problem is that people took all these trees and nothing was left 🙁 so sad.
      But anyways, Christmas is still fun with a plastic tree hahaha…. though I love the real ones 😀
      Ohhh so in Greece is the same as in Brazil when it comes to decorating the tree! I keep thinking, what is the fun to put up the tree only on the 24th? For me the entire month of December is Christmas 😀
      Thank you so much for sharing how is it like in Greece Anna, I love to learn these traditions 😀 I hope you have a great weekend!

  • What a fun post! I’d love to try some lebkuchen! I’ve always dreamt of spending a Christmas in Germany, particularly visiting their Christmas markets. Do you recommend one city over the rest for Christmas?

    • Thank you so much for your compliment and lovely comment 😀 I appreciate it!
      I hope one day you come to visit the Christmas markets here in Germany.
      So far, I have only spent Christmas here in Munich and in Regensburg. Bur I hear the Christmas Markets in Nuremberg, Köln and Dresden are amazing! I still haven’t been there before for Christmas Markets, but they are veeery popular in Germany, together with Munich 😀
      I wouldnt recommend much the north of the country because its veeeeery cold, hahaha but still beautiful, like Hamburg!
      Where are you spending Christmas? 🙂

  • Advent calendars for pets are big business in the UK at the moment – have you got one for your dog?

  • Lovely pictures, all set for the big day…so exciting to be getting ready for the celebration. The preparation to celebration is more fun than the celebration day, I suppose that’s how I enjoy the journey not keep everything for the destination…

    Have a Great Weekend!!!

    • Thank you Nihar 😀
      Ohhh soo you also love the preparations? Well, me too!
      The preparation is indeed more fun than the day itself hahaha… and after all is gone I miss it 😀

      I hope you have a great week! 🙂

      • Yes, exciting times ahead, as we approach one more new year… Hope you are having a great time in this journey towards 2015… Thanks so much!!!

        • Thank you so much Nihar… yes Im having a great time so far, even though I miss my family a bit, but next month I will visit them in Brazil 😀

          • O! Brazil, I have never visited but really love it, I will be visiting and it is on my agenda…l am a big fan of Brazilian football…

          • hahaha really? Even after we lost 7 x 1 against the Germans? Thank youuu 😀 it was so shameful!!

          • O! That was an aberration and brilliant people come out with silly exceptions…when you love such one time big errors are overlooked…
            Inspite of that Brazil remains the everlasting team of joy…

          • hahaha thank you for your words!! They make me feel better 😀 well I have to say it wasn’t easy for me seeing my husband’s team winning over mine like that 😀

          • Sometime in life we should give credit and cherish the moment when husband is happy…just kidding. Germans played better that day and nothing can be taken away from the art of football from Brazil, that was a bad day for the team…

          • hahahaaha 😀
            Ohh yes, they definitely played better, and deserved to win… even though for us was very humiliating and sad. Our team wasn’t prepared!

          • Yes, all big team and players go through these big aberration in their long career…but that doesn’t in any way take away the talent and the brilliance that has been inherited and imbibed over years of practice…we love the display of their brilliance and sometime it may not give the desired result…

          • Thank you so much for saying this Nihar… next time someone makes a joke about it I say what you just said 😀

  • Thank you for this lovely post. It is a real eye-opener to find out that Christmas is celebrated quite differently from the ‘typical’ ones we see on TV!

    • You’re welcome Helene!! 😀
      Yes, there are many different traditions around the world… in Brazil is very different than here in Germany, and Canada too.
      Where are you spending Christmas this year? 🙂

  • Gute Infos und schöne Fotos.. Gruß aus Indonesien 🙂

  • I love the glühwein and Christmas markets in Germany..I guess the glühwein is only nice to drink during Christmas time and at the Christmas markets – fresh and warm!! 😀
    Oh, I gave up having the real tree for Christmas – the mess afterwards and too much work in the end 🙁 Maybe in the future I just grew one in the garden..but I agree the smell of the tree inside of the room is really nice and always beautiful to look at!

    • I completely agree with you Indah hahaha Glühwein is only nice during Christmas time in a Christmas Market, fresh and warm. We have some bottles at home so we can warm up and drink, but it is not the same 🙁 so we often go to Christmas Markets at the end of the day hahaha
      Are there Christmas Markets close to you?

      Ohh my you are so right about the tree… I dont blame for not buying the real ones anymore… I love them, but as you said there is so much work, especially at the end… it leaves everything dirty and we always have to cut it all in pieces and bring them to a “garbage station”. hahaha

      I hope you have a great week! 🙂

      • The closest one maybe in Belgium!! 😀 Actually Christmas Market is not really a Dutch tradition. Few cities like Amsterdam have such markets but they are just okay. The only nicest and big Christmas Market in the Netherlands is in Maastricht. I have been there and it was beautiful – well, I like Maastricht as a city in general, it’s a pretty city.
        And you, have a great week too!! Thanks a lot!!

        • Ohhh ok, that I didnt know. As the Dutch have so many similar traditions to the Germans, I thought you also had many Christmas Markets. But its already nice to have it in Maastricht as it s not so far from you 😀 in any case, one of these years you can come to Germany!!

          Thank you 😀

          • 😀 German Christmas Markets are certainly nicer! Hopefully I will visit it again – been so long the last time I went to one of the markets in Germany!! Enjoy your Monday!!

          • Ohh I hope you do come, especially to Munich 😀
            Thank you, enjoy your Tuesday!

  • Oh my. Now I want candy! It is a bad idea checking out blogs sometimes..

  • Is it Christmas already then? 😀

    • hahaha It feels like it is 😀
      Where are you spending Christmas?

      • I’m going to be with family in the UK. Boring old London I’m afraid. Xmas in 2015 will be in Singapore though 🙂

        • Ohhh but that sounds great!! I wish my family could come and spend Christmas here in Germany with me 😀
          Wowww Xmas in Singapore sounds amazing… I wish one day I could spend New Year’s there 😀

  • Nice post, very informative. 🙂 I don’t think all Germans decorate the trees on the 24th. One of my friends is German (in the UK) and his family have everything up already! 😀 But I would like to spend some time in another European country over Xmas to see a comparison with UK traditions…and then one day even somewhere like Riyadh where they don’t celebrate at all… 😮

    • Yess I know, maaaany people still love to put the tree up before the 24th, thank God I am not the only one hahaha. But the vast majority do it on the 24th as it is the tradition…. but you know how things are today, some traditions are not followed as before… I am guessing in a few years in Brazil there will be Adventskalender too 😀

      As you I also have curiosity to spend Christmas in a place where they don’t celebrate it… must be veeery different for us 😀 but again, probably it will only be a normal day haha

      Thank you so much for your comment 😀

  • Interesting post! 🙂 Marry Christmas. Bye. K

  • I think you’re in one of the best places for Christmas, markets, mulled wine… oh you’re making me excited about Christmas now! I’m off to buy my tree today too. I’ve been abroad over Xmas but there is something about being in a cold country, wrapped up warm and roaring fires!

    • So you think so? 😀 I have to say I love spending Christmas here, but also loved Christmas in Canada too… a bit different, but both are my imagine of an amazing Christmas!
      Do you have Christmas Markets in the UK too?

      You are right, I spent most Christmas of my life in a warm country… since I spent my first Christmas in a cold country, that is how I want do spend every year! It makes much more sense hahaha… cold and sometimes snow… relaxing, with candles and mulled wine 😀 perfect!

  • Lovely Christmas traditions – and such delicious looking food! While food in Australia may differ a little, the sentiments, trees and gifts are the same.

    On our home front, we’ve started an new approach to the advent calendar with daily activities to share the spirit of Christmas with others (inspired by another blogger). So far, my small folk have passed on toys to charity, given gifts to refugees and written happy Christmas messages in chalk on the footpath for people to enjoy. The each have a special treat day – and, so far, are full of good cheer!

    • Wow what an amazing idea!!! This year instead of material things I left messages for my husband each day, and some of them asking him to do something different like looking at our wedding photo album, things like that 😀
      But this idea you are following is wonderful, because it brightens other people’s day too 😀 <3 thank you for sharing it!

  • Lovely <3 A great list to share!
    Some traditions are similar here in Slovenia like the tree & St. Nicolas instead of Santa Claus. People celebrate more the New Year's even, as I have been told. But anyway, looks like a yummy time to be in Germany! Enjoy it, girl! Greeting from Slovenia! xx

    • Ohh really? I didnt know in Slovenia there was alse St. Nicolas instead of Santa Claus… 😀 good to know!

      I love New Year’s, even more than Christmas, but here in Germany New Year’s is kind of depressing if you dont go to a party… I prefer spending in Brazil or somewhere warm 😀
      I hope you enjoy both!! 😀

      Hugs from Germany :*

  • Demais o seu blog, Allane! Quantos lugares incríveis…adorei conhecer.
    Já tô seguindo lá no insta 🙂

    Beijos!

    • Ahhh obrigada Natalia, fico feliz que tenha gostado, de verdade. Adoro o seu, já falei 😀 é sempre gostoso passar por la e ver suas fotos no Insta 😀
      Volte sempre que quiser dar uma voltinha pelo mundo 😀

      Beijos!

  • I would love to experience Christmas in Germany as there are so many delicious treats involved and I have a little bit of a sweet tooth!! 🙂 The decorated Christmas cookies look delicious and the cake as well. Oh, and I can’t forget the gingerbread!! Yum!! I have heard many great things about the Christmas markets in Germany as well. I would love to go to one – hopefully, some day!!

    • Ohhhh then here would be heaven for your sweet tooth 😀
      I really hope you can come someday and visit as many Christmas Markets as you can!!

      Thank you so much for stopping by 😀 I hope you have an amazing month of December!

  • Great pictures, great post!

  • Great post! Your first Christmas in Germany looks wonderful! I love the smell of a real Christmas tree – we’d always get a real one at home.

    • Thank you Sophie!! 🙂
      It is actually my 3rd Christmas here 😀
      Ohh yes, the smell is great… and its always exciting to get a new tree every year, I love it!

      Have a great week!

  • I hadn’t come across the wreath with the 4 candles idea. That’s rather nice 🙂 These days ‘German’ markets are everywhere. They just lend themselves to Christmas, don’t they? 🙂

    • hahaha true!!! I hear there are lots in the US and even in Canada… funny how this tradition spread! I love it! 😀

  • Ellie Thomas

    Great read, I was curious about German Christmas traditions – it’s quite popular here in Japan to mimic the Germans with their Christmas celebrations!

    • Thank you very much Ellie! It makes me really happy to know that you liked the post! I didn’t know that in Japan people were inspired by the German Christmas traditions!! Do they have Christmas Markets too? 😀

      • They do, and being from Australia I just assumed the Christmas markets would be what I assumed they would be, little christmassy trinkets, cakes, ornaments but they were full of bretzel, all kinds of German beer, German sausages, stollen and all sorts! It inspires me to visit Germany around Christmas time to see how it’s really done! 🙂

        • Ohhhh you must come for Christmas in Germany!! It is a must do… there are so many amazing Christmas markets here, some have different themes 😀 Im sure you would love them all!!

  • Oh I’m missing the Christmas markets already!! Love them so much. It made me smile to hear that you are also such a fan of the Baumstriezel 😀 😀 I got introduced to them 6 years ago in Prague, where they’re called trdelník. I fell in love and was so bummed when I couldn’t find them in Munich (they are sold year-round in Prague). Then the Christmas markets arrived and at first I only found them at the Residenz. But then the next year there was also one at the medieval market. And then another and another and another! And now I’m happy to report that this year I saw many kiosks for them all over Munich. My favorite is the one with almonds. And you?

    • hahaha ohhhhhh how awesome that you also love Baumstritzel!!! I guess you are the first one that tells me this! It is true that every year more and more Christmas Markets have them to sell… this year I had about 4 of them 😀 you know whats funny? I never tried the other flavours, only the Cinnamon with sugar! This year I have to try the almond one because I love almonds!!
      I wish we had them all year round here in Munich! Every time I find one I have to buy 😀 <3