Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas in Germany

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of them is Newsweek. Last weekend they had their food critic on to talk about candy canes. Like many of our American Christmas traditions, they come from Germany. But this lady was so confused by that fact saying "its funny because I don't think of Germany as a very festive place." Does "O Tannenbaum" ring a bell?

American Christmas borrows heavily from Germany, including the Christmas trees, advent wreaths, a lot of food, and some carols. But German Christmas has many traditions that didn't cross over. The above photo is from the Christmas market in Nürnberg, taken with Marisa and Justin's camera, you can read Justin's take on Nürnberg here.

These markets are in pretty much every village and city in Germany. The traditional drink is Glühwein (mulled wine) which you drink out of little boots. There are lots of goodies to eat and beautiful Christmas ornaments and local crafts for sale at the Christmas market. The church bells toll more often and sometimes there are carolers or nativity scenes.

The Christmas celebrations here start at Advent (the four Sundays before the 25th) and culminate on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve). Everyone enjoys some coffee and Stollen (Christmas cake) or other goodies during the afternoon. The children are shooed out of the room, and then Christi comes to decorate the tree and bring the presents. "Christi" is German for Christ, though when I asked about this there was some disagreement about whether this was actually the baby Jesus. The confusion probably comes from the fact that Christi is usually portrayed by a little girl dressed as an angel with blond ringlets.

St. Nickolaus comes not on Christmas, but on December 6th to bring oranges and nuts. And even though most kids can eat oranges and nuts whenever they want, they are still pretty excited about Nickolaus. Sometimes he also brings a small present, like a book.

"Weihnachtsmann" also appears in Germany. This is American-style Santa Claus, with the red suit. Nickolaus is dressed like an old bishop, as was his occupation while he lived. I haven't met a German who celebrates with Weihnachtsmann, and I'm beginning to think he's just a marketing ploy. Even the little girl I babysit, whose parents are American, doesn't believe in Weihnachtsmann, despite repeated readings of "The Polar Express." Its just too confusing to have so many people bringing presents in one month, I guess.

Even though we don't have any snow at all, there is definitely a beautiful Christmas feeling in the air. I highly recommend Germany in December.


Bonnie Jean said...

To be fair, most of the American "traditional" Christmas ideals are from Victorian England, which - after all - was governed by a half-German married to a German! ;)

I do love those little boots, though - so cute!

Justin and Marisa said...

Yeah Katy!!! Christmas rocks in Germany!! and I like Santa Claus too haha. Thanks for the shout out.