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Expat in Germany: 5 Facts About Christmas in Germany

Monday, December 27, 2010

5 Facts About Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany is similar to Christmas in North America in many ways but there are some differences which I found rather surprising after spending my first Christmas in Germany

1st Fact About Christmas in Germany - Santa Clause Doesn't Come at Christmas
I know what you're thinking, oh those poor German children, but don't feel too sorry for them, since while Santa Clause (Weihnachtsmann in German) may not come, Christkind (the Christ Child in English) is the gift bearer in Germany and throughout different parts of Europe. Christkind couldn't look more different than Santa Claus though.  He is usually depicted as a child and angel-like with curly blond hair.  As with Santa Claus though, children never see Christkind in action (hopefully).  It also should be said that the Weihnactsmann is becoming increasing more common as the gift bearer in Germany,  much to the chagrin of some people as the above photo demonstrates translating as "We believe in the Christ Child, don't give Santa Claus a chance."
One depiction of Christkind who makes an appearance every Christmas in Germany
 2nd Fact About Christmas in Germany - Christmas Comes Early
Children in North America would be so jealous of children in Germany if they knew they got their presents a whole 12 hours earlier.  Christkind comes in the early evening of Dec 24th and presents are opened that evening instead of waiting until the morning of the 25th.  It closely resembles Christmas morning in North America, but perhaps with fewer presents since many Germans are more practical with their spending and gift giving than many North Americans are. 

 3rd Fact About Christmas in Germany - There is an Extra Christmas Holiday
Or more specifically St Nicholas Day (the famous saint on who Santa Claus is based)  and he comes very early - on December 6th and he may even make house calls in person!  When J.P. (my German fiance) was very young he remembered St. Nicholas knocking on the door, then reading from his "Naughty or Nice" book, all the "naught and nice" things he had done that year.  He said he was afraid of St. Nicholas, but fortunately always made the "nice" list.  St. Nicholas is not nearly as generous as Christkind though usually only giving candy.
Christkind and Santa Clause, but there is a movement to keep Christkind as the gift giver and not the American Santa Claus as depicted in the top photo
4th Fact About Christmas in Germany -Turkeys are Safe in Germany
Many North Americans celebrate Christmas with a nice turkey dinner but you won't find a turkey dinner in sight at a German Christmas Dinner.  A roast goose is the traditional Christmas dish served along with some red cabbage, although wild boar may also be served in place of the roast goose.

5th Fact About Christmas in Germany - There's No (gasp) Snacking Nor Junk Food
Germans are not big snackers to begin with nor junk food eaters, but you definitely won't go hungry at a German Christmas.  You will likely have three filling meals and coffee and cake in the afternoon, but I feel this is worth mentioning since there will likely be no soda or chips in the house and if you do watch a Christmas movie you will likely be watching the movie, not snacking away endlessly while doing it.  For the first time in many years I didn't walk away bloated feeling like I had gained 5 pounds, so perhaps this should be the 6th thing to know about Christmas in Germany.

You may also be interested in German Christmas Markets:

German Christmas Markets for Children
The Stuttgart Christmas Market
5 Tips for Going to a German Christmas Market
Ludwigsburg Christmas Market
What Does Hiking in Germany Have in Common With German Christmas Markets?

How to Celebrate Christmas While Living Abroad



At December 27, 2010 at 10:31 AM , Anonymous inka said...

Forgive for making a tiny correction: who comes on the 6th of December is not the Weihnachtsmann but Nikolaus. Weihnachtsmann and Christkind do the gift giving together on the evening of the 24th.
It's so interesting to read about your take on our Christmas. As for the snacking: true, no junkfood, but all these spekulatius, lebkuchen and they do have their colories too.

At December 27, 2010 at 12:55 PM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@inka - Thanks so much for the correction, I have now made it, and appreciate your keen eyes. Oops.

Oh yes, the German treats are fantastic but at least their tasty calories and not just empty calories that we tend to consume in North America.

At December 27, 2010 at 12:55 PM , Anonymous Kelly said...

Cool! My family always opens our presents on Christmas Eve too. I could never wait a whole other 12 hours! haha.

At December 27, 2010 at 1:12 PM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Kelly Oh you're sooooo lucky! We always had to wait until 10:00 am which is pure torture for a kid!

At December 27, 2010 at 2:36 PM , Anonymous Cathy Sweeney said...

Such interesting things to know about Christmas in Germany! About the 5th fact, that really is quite a difference. I've been consuming huge quantities of goodies for about two weeks now. Must stop soon....

At December 27, 2010 at 4:04 PM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Cathy - German food is already pretty heavy and they love their carbs (breads, cakes, etc.) so if they ate junk food as well, they would have a large problem so to speak :)

At December 27, 2010 at 5:58 PM , Anonymous Jools said...

No snacking?! Sacreliege!

At December 28, 2010 at 12:10 AM , Anonymous Andrea said...

Interesting facts! I'm not German, but we always opened presents on Christmas Eve when I was growing up and never ate turkey for Christmas either.

At December 28, 2010 at 4:51 AM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Jools - LOL! But they do compensate with high quality home made goodies - at the appointed time :)

@Andrea - You would fit right in with the Germans :)

At December 29, 2010 at 5:29 PM , Anonymous Lorna - the roamantics said...

fun read and i hadn't heard any of it before. we always opened presents christmas eve too. it felt really magical to do that and it was smart for our family too as they didn't have to wake up at 5am to us begging them to get up!

At December 31, 2010 at 3:48 AM , Anonymous Robin said...

I just had a wonderful Christmas in Germany and can confirm that all of the above is true¬!

At January 3, 2011 at 5:30 AM , Anonymous Amy said...

Great post! I had no idea that they don't do Santa in Germany!

At January 4, 2011 at 2:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome. Now, I can only hope you didn't have to deal with the same same Boxing Day shopping hoopla we did in North America!

At January 5, 2011 at 10:41 AM , Blogger Expat in Germany said...

@Lorna - You were so lucky, I thought I would die waiting until 10:00 am to open presents!
@Robin - thanks for the confirmation!
@Amy - thanks, Santa is becoming more popular but is facing strong opposition
@Anonymous - Everything is closed in Germany on Boxing Day, but the stores are very busy from Dec 27 through to New Years


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