Personally, I enjoy Christmas time… or Adventszeit as we like to call it in German. Starting on the 1st of Dec or the 4th Sunday before Christmas eve (whichever is first), there is a festive mood in the air and winter gets an extra glow and magic to it. That’s when it becomes okay (in my book) to put on the Christmas playlist, pull out the decorations and visit the Christmas markets.
Of course, every family has different Christmas traditions. Here is a list of a couple that I personally like.
Up to today, my mom provides each of her four children and their spouses with a homemade family Advent calendar. It consists of 24 numbered small cloth bags that contain various chocolates, one for each day for each family member from Dec 1st to Christmas eve. And even though I am in my thirties by now, I still appreciate and enjoy this small token of love every year.
There is a wide variety of store bought options available as well. Ranging from chocolate, across lottery tickets to jewelry, there are no limitations to your wishes and desires… and wallet.
It is tradition in Germany to light an Adventskranz (Advent wreath) during Christmas time. It consists of 4 candles, arranged with some form of Christmas decorations. Each Sunday, one additional candle is lit, making it an additional countdown until Christmas eve. I personally tend to forget to arrange for one, but I appreciate the warm and festive atmosphere that it creates in a home.
Christmas markets are an integral part of the Adventszeit. Usually, people go in small groups of family, friends or colleagues to enjoy the lights, stalls with merchandise, such as handicraft, hot drinks and festival foods. Personally, I can’t leave without a bag of gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds). Most people visit Christmas markets several times a season with a different constellation of people. Every excuse to go back and enjoy the atmosphere a little bit longer.
Aside from hot tea and hot cocoa, Glühwein (mulled wine) is a Christmas staple. People hit the Christmas markets usually several times per season with family, friends and colleagues to share this hot beverage. My personal go-to at the Christmas market though is actually Kinderpunsch (children’s punch), which is pretty much the sticky, sweet and fruity child friendly alternative.
There is a wide variety of Weihnachtsplätzchen (Christmas cookies) in Germany. Butterplätzchen, Spritzgebäck, Vanillekipferln, Schwarzweißgebäck, Linzerplätzchen… these are just a few options. People will bake big loads and share them with family, friends and colleagues during Advent. Spekulatius (Speculaas cookies) and Dominosteine are additional store bought favorites of mine. All in all, lots of sugar, butter, chocolate and occasionally marzipan. Better give up your diet during this season, the temptation is too great to resist.
Aside from the festivities during the Adventszeit leading up to it, the official celebration happens on Christmas eve on Dec 24th. A lot of employers make this day an additionally work holiday or at least give their employees half the day off to prepare for the festivities. But officially Christmas consists of 2 national holidays. Everything closes down on Dec 25th and 26th and inofficially shuts down early on Dec 24th. Make sure to take care of your grocery and gift shopping ahead of time.
Christmas eve is usually spent with the family, having a big Christmas dinner (my family has opted for Raclette for the last couple of years) and a gift exchange huddled around the Christmas tree. Additionally, my family traditionally plays board games for most of the night.
The official holidays are usually used to visit family and friends across town and/or relax. At least in my family, nothing special happens during those days, but you will usually hear Christmas music all day and the Christmas tree will keep being restocked with candles. Since everything is closed, there is nothing to do and no real obligation. It’s very relaxing and pleasent.
And on that note: Happy holidays to you and your loved ones! I hope you get to celebrate as best as you can considering this year’s unusual circumstances. Stay safe and healthy! 🎄🤶🎅
How about you?
What are your family’s Christmas traditions?
Cover picture was taken in Hamburg (Germany) in Dec 2016