Life: Christmas traditions in my home country Germany

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.

Advent calendar

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.

Advent wreath

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

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.

Christmas beverages

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.

Christmas treats

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.

Christmas celebrations

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

25 thoughts on “Life: Christmas traditions in my home country Germany

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  1. Love hearing about Christmas traditions from around the world. I have friends who are in Germany now and others that have lived there over the years and they often talk about the Christmas Markets. I would love to visit, someday. One of our traditions is to drive around and look at Christmas light displays – usually about the second week in December. We started doing this with my Grandparents when we were little and still do it to this day. We also usually go to a Christmas Eve church service – but opted out this year due to COVID-19.

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    1. What a lovely Christmas tradition 😍🥰 Thank you for sharing. And hope you get to visit a German Christmas Market in the future, they are seriously an institution 😁🌲

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  2. Thank you for sharing some German Christmas traditions! I’m curious, what are your thoughts about pickle ornaments for the Christmas tree? My Christmas traditions include gathering with family, having dinner, singing karaoke, then going to Midnight Mass on the 24th. But of course, that’s not happening this year. It’ll be immediate family only and no Mass. Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas! 🎄

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    1. Oh, Darlene, you have hit a sore spot 😂 I first encountered the legend of the German Christmas pickle as a German exchange student in Florida when I was 16. My host family and I visited Disney World’s Epcot where they have a Bavarian village with a year-round Christmas store. We stumbled across a Christmas tree covered in glass ornaments in the shape of pickles which really confused me. There was a sign explaining that it’s a German Christmas tradition hide a (Christmas) pickle in their tree. I was flabbergasted and went on a mini rant that I had never heard of this and that it was ridiculous. My host mother found my reaction so amusing that she secretly bought pickle ornaments for herself and my family back home. And my parents have hung in up diligently every year ever since 🙈
      But I have asked every single German I know since then, across generations and across regions and NO ONE has ever heard of it. It seems like it is – similar to “Chinese” fortune cookies – an American invention that gets attributed to an unrelated country 😅
      Long story short, it is not a German thing, but my host mom has made it a thing in my parents’ house.

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      1. Love that story!! Sorry to have hit a sore spot! My dear friend in Berlin also had not heard of the pickle ornament thing, so it must be an American invention! 😂

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  3. Aside from just a nice dinner, my family and I don’t really celebrate Christmas with grand gestures; we aren’t even giving out gifts to each other this year. When I visited Germany during the winter holidays, I really enjoyed the Christmas markets and the copious amounts of glühwein. I enjoyed collecting the mugs at the markets, as well as having lebkuchen (specifically the Aachener Printen when I visited Aachen four years ago). Spätzle was always welcomed, too. Enjoy the holiday celebrations, and stay safe!

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    1. Das kann ich gut verstehen. Für mich gehören Weihnachtsmärkte tatsächlich zur Adventszeit dazu. Ohne komme ich scheinbar gar nicht in Stimmung, musste ich dieses Jahr feststellen 😅

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  4. I always get nostalgic for Germany at this time of year. I used to live in Koblenz and Christmas was absolutely magical. Lots of delicious stuff with marzipan. Not to mention a glass or two of Doppelbock down on the banks of the Rhein am Deutschen Eck! Zum Wohl und alles Gute zu Weihnachten!

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