The Christmas Eve is on December 24. Those who are away from home travel back to join Christmas Eve celebrations in the afternoon and evening and spend time with their family. They involve themselves in lighting, Christmas tree decorations, which mark the arrival of Christmas. Some go to church to attend midnight masses. Singing Christmas carols, reading stories related to birth of Jesus Christ, and exchanging gifts are the marquee of the beginning of Christmas. Krippenspiel , the enactment of the Nativity is also a core program in some churches.
St. Nicholas Day of the Christmas Season
In Germany, December 6, is one of the significant days to mark the arrival of the glorious Day of Christ.’ Nikolaustag , as it is termed, is celebrated to commemorate St. Nicholas or Nikolaus. On the evening of a day before Nikolaustag, children keep their shoes or boots, called Nikolausstiefel , near the entrance or the front door of their home. Children believe that the Nikolaus, German equivalent of Santa Claus (Der Weihnachtsmann), will visit their homes and fill the boots or shoes with sweets, chocolates or small gifts.
Christmas Traditions in Germany
Christmas tree decoration and presenting it in the best possible way is the cornerstone of the Christmas Eve celebrations in Germany. The Christmas tree is adorned with tinsels, small lamps, toys symbolizing the angels and the three wise men, chocolates/candy, sweets, dry fruits/nuts, cookies, and other decorative items.
Advent Calendar is a significant feature of Christmas celebrations in Germany. Advent Calendar with 24 doors is used to open one door per day for all 24 days right from the beginning of December. The Advent calendars display pictures signifying the Christmas icons or the Christmas season scenes. Some calendars carry a chocolate or a candy at the back of each door to bring in the sweetness of each day. The Advent calendars help to mark the countdown of the time until Christmas zeroes in on December 25.
Traditional Adventists include Advent wreath, Adventskranz in German, as part of their decoration in the beginning of the Christmas season. The evergreen Advent wreath is set up four Sundays prior to the Day of Christmas. A new candle is lit every week, and by the Day of Christmas, one could already see four candles adorning the Advent Wreath. The fifth candle is lit on the Day of Christmas. Family members usually gather around the Christmas wreath and sing carols to add zeal and zest to the Christmas season celebrations.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dishes
As opposed to a big grand meal usually prepared and served as part of Christmas celebrations in other countries, having a simple meal on Christmas Eve or Heiligabend is a practice in Germany. The meal is served before or after the time of exchange of gifts, known as ‘Bescherung’ in German. Warm potato salad with Wieners Schnitzel or Frankfurters, fish, duck, goose, fondue containing many types of meat, chicken, lamb and raclette are generally considered part of the Christmas Eve meal.
Christmas Day is also a time of feasting. Some of the specialty items served in Christmas Day feasting are roast goose or roast pig and reisbrei , a rice porridge/pudding made out of a sweet cinnamon. Macaroni salad, sausages, and other specialties of the family find place in the Christmas Day feast menu. The Christmas time treats to family, friends, and neighbors may include spice bars/gingerbread (lebkuchen), sweets made from confectionery or fancy candies in the shape of fruit called Marzipan, fruit cake (stollen), and bread loafs decorated with raisins, nuts and dry fruits (christstollen).
Christmas Shopping in Germany
Christ Child Markets (‘Christmaskindlmart’) are featured shopping areas specially set up for Christmas shoppers in some towns of Germany. The Nuremburg Market, one of the oldest Christmaskindlmart in Germany, provides superior shopping services till now from the day it started around 400 years ago. Christmas themes tailored to German traditions could be visualized in the Christmas Day gifts, toys, decorations, and food stuff. Local handicrafts and other goods are shopped in Nuremburg at Christmas time at this famous market.