Christmas Traditions in Germany
By Jared Winston
Countries all across the world celebrate the winter solstice holiday
season in their own unique ways. Some such as Christmas and
Hanukah are religious celebrations, while others are non-religious
celebrations of nature, people and the coming spring solstice. The
reasoning behind the various holiday celebrations can sometimes differ
greatly, but there are a surprising number of commonalities among the
celebratory traditions. Over the thousands of years that man has
celebrated the season, each group influenced others with their traditions.
Today each country and faith celebrates the holiday in their own unique
ways, but more often than not you can detect common themes shared
between countries. In this article we will take a closer look at how
Christmas is celebrated in Germany, during which you will see that their
traditions are not unlike those shared by England and America.
The youth in many countries celebrate a beloved mystical figure such as
Santa Claus and Germany is no different; the German equivalent of
America's Santa and England's Father Christmas is none other than the
kindly Kris Kringle. Unlike Santa, Kris Kringle is not responsible for
passing out gifts to excited children - that duty is reserved by another
holiday figure: Christkind.
In Germany children will write letters to Christkind (translated as the
Christ Child), much like American children send letters to Santa in the
North Pole. The German children place their letters into an envelope
heavily adorned with glue and sugar. These envelopes are placed on
windowsills where they can glitter in the gentle light of the moon.
And as if the German youth didn't already celebrate enough kindly
eternal figures there is yet one more: Saint Nicholas! Traditionally
children will stuff their shoes with hay, straw or carrots every Christmas
Eve and leave them on their doorsteps. When Saint Nicholas rides by
later that evening on his proud white stallion he stops momentarily by
each door so that his stallion can feed on the treats left behind. To thank
the generous children, Saint Nicholas will replace the eaten hay and/or
carrots with delicious candies.
Few things capture the holiday spirits of people better than the age-old
Christmas tree. While millions of people set up their Christmas tree
each and every year, a good portion of them don't even realize that the
tradition originated from Germany. Germans love their Christmas trees
just as much as Americans and Englishmen¡ in fact it's not uncommon
to see more than one tree in a German household!
There are conflicting myths about how the Christmas tree first came to
be, but one of the most common stories tells the tale of an old
woodcutter that stumbled across a young hungry child in the woods. He
stopped chopping trees for a bit to befriend and feed the child. Once
their meal was finished the two went on their separate ways.
Early during the next morning the child appeared in front of the
woodcutter and his wife in the form of a spirit. He identified himself as
Christkind and thanked the surprised woodcutter for his act of kindness
on the previous day. To repay the woodcutter's good will, Christkind
gave him the sprig of an evergreen tree and told him the tree from which
the sprig came would bear fruit year round. In response to this
miraculous incident, each year Germans started felling evergreen trees
each winter and decorating them with ornaments, candies, candles and
Once Thanksgiving arrives in America you can be sure of one thing:
virtually every mall and shopping outlet will be adorned with many
festive Christmas decorations. Germans know how to kick the holiday
shopping system into high gear too¡ in fact they have a name for this
tradition: Kriskringlemart. During this time vendors and merchants will
line the various town streets and offer special sales for Christmas. The
festive decorations, scents and sounds of the holiday create a true feast
for the senses.
What Christmas would be complete without a seemingly endless
assortment of tasty foods and drinks? If you were to celebrate Christmas
while in Germany you would have your fill of indulgent treats such as
spiced cakes, cookies, handmade candies and cocoa. Although all the
above are enough to satisfy the palate there are two specialties
Germans are renowned for: gingerbread and gluwein (which is a spiced
red wine). Bakers also produce a special type of dough called
Christbaumgeback, which is molded into various shapes and hung on
Christmas trees as adornments.
Each country has their own festive traditions that take place during the
winter holiday season, but few are quite as memorable as Christmas in
Germany. Those lucky enough to vacation in this wonderful country
during the holiday season will leave with memories that will last them a
Copyright Jared Winston, 2005. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Celebrate the Christmas Season all year round at Christmas Revelry.com, a site where festive souls can learn more about the holiday season and pick up some fun ideas that will make your Christmas more cheerful. http://www.christmasrevelry.com
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