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 goodwill, 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 more.
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 its 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 lifetime.