Christmas is coming, bright and sparkling, and next features will make up a collection of festive stories. In Part One we will get acquainted with German Christmas traditions and customs, history of Christmas tree, traditional German Christmas markets, Advent – Christmas calendar that originated from Germany, and Christ Child – the one who puts Christmas gifts under German Christmas trees.
Christmas, or as the Germans call it – “Weihnachten”, is a quiet time in Germany. People are in a thoughtful mood. Town streets and business offices are decorated with Christmas lights and branches of pine-needle and fir-needle trees. Everything appears in red and dark green – the colors of “Weihnachten” in Germany. Houses are usually scarcely decorated. You might see some lights in a window, or figures painted on windows with snow spray, but usually nothing too fancy. Christmas is the most cheerful and important season of the year. The main night is Christmas Eve which takes place on December 24th. Families get together for a rich holiday dinner and to wait for Santa (“Weihnachtsmann”) who brings the presents that night. Basically families exchange their gifts on the night of the 24th. Two more Christmas holidays follow, the 25th and the 2nd Christmas Day, the 26th of December.
Christmas is extremely popular worldwide. It is one of the most powerful and certainly oldest traditions in human history. Holiday celebrations in Germany start in earnest with the beginning of Advent. On that day children get to open the first of the 24 doors of their Adventskalender. The most miraculous children’s holiday in German-speaking countries is St. Nikolaus Eve, celebrated on December 6. This is the day when all obedient children get presents, mostly sweets, from St. Nikolaus, whose custom is to put them into the shoes, providently set outside the bedroom door.
Germany (and most other countries) celebrates Christmas on December 24, the Holy Night. Shops are open much of the day and celebrations do not start before the afternoon. The children have to leave the room until the Christmas bell rings. At that point they will either find their presents under the tree, or Father Christmas himself will pay a visit. Dinner is served after presents have been unwrapped, and many families conclude the evening by attending a midnight Christmas Mass. The 25th and 26th are official holidays, mostly spent with family and friends.