3 German Christmas Traditions You Probably Don’t Know About

As always at Wild Bum, we are so proud of the expansive community we have that is spread all over the world! We thought it would be fun to hear about some Christmas traditions in various parts of the world. In the midst of an extraordinary Christmas season this year, here is an opportunity to learn more about how other cultures celebrate Christmas. Starting with this post by our very own community member, Marie Utsch.

Growing up in Germany, my Christmas involved baking lots of Christmas cookies, writing letters to the Christ Child (sorry, Santa!), being more excited about advent calendars than actual presents, and lighting one candle on the advent wreath each Sunday before Christmas. Can you tell that our Christmas traditions differ from the one’s I would see in the American movies?

In order to bring some of the German Christmas traditions to life for you, I have compiled a list of 3 simple German Christmas traditions you probably didn’t know about. Take notes, it’s a great conversation starter when you have the family over during the holidays!

Advent calendars are our favorite countdown to Christmas day.

I’m 27 years old, but I still get excited about advent calendars! They are an absolute must to get into Christmas spirit. As the name suggests, it is a calendar filled with gifts, sweets, poems, pictures etc. They includes one surprise for every day in December until the 24th.

It’s a tradition that started in the mid 19th century to make it easier for kids to grasp the concept of time and anticipate the days before Christmas. At first, families would read a different poem or bible verse every day, but then the advent calendars evolved and started to include Christmas-inspired pictures or drawing.

Nowadays, the variety of advent calendars leaves you speechless. From chocolate, to beauty, to jewelry, to beer or wine – there is something for everyone. My favorites are still DIY calendars made by friends and family that include small treats like chocolate, sweets, tea, beauty and cosmetics.

Santa is not the only one bringing the presents!

First, there was St. Nicholas. In the middle age, he was said to bring presents to kids on St. Nicholas day (6th of December). The protestants in Germany didn’t like it, so they introduced the “holy christ” to bring presents on Christmas Eve. The Catholics liked the idea and took it on. In parallel, a protestant movement introduced Santa. He was an evolvement of St. Nicholas that replaced the “holy christ”. Today, protestant parts of the country believe in Santa, while Catholics hold on to the “holy christ” embodied by an angel-like child.

But, who cares about who brings the presents! The best part of growing up in Germany is that kids don’t have to wait until Christmas day for presents. Yes, you heard me. German kids get to open their presents on Christmas Eve. The family gets together in the early evening, has dinner and then opens the presents. Also, it is not unusual for the younger generation to excuse themselves after the official part is over and go out for drinks with their friends. With everyone being back in town for the holidays, it is a great time to catch up.

Christmas eve is for potato salad and sausages.

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is homemade potato salad and sausages. Sounds pretty German, right? It was established in the post war period as it offered a simple and affordable dish with ingredients that were easily available. Also, the 24th is a regular working day so people were looking for an easy and quick dinner option to have time to wrap presents and decorate the Christmas tree. According to a study from 2016, every second household in Germany maintains this tradition.

This is just a snapshot into some of the German Christmas traditions. I’m thankful for them as they offer a certain stability and sense of security. Something we all can use after a turbulent year like this one! I hope you enjoy your holidays, with your own rituals and traditions, and stay healthy and happy.

Still searching for the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for a travel lover in your life? Be sure to check out this post. It has lots of great ideas for you!

About the Author

I’m a mix of German and French roots, I can feel at home anywhere in the world, but I always enjoy going home to Cologne, Germany. Lived in Buenos Aires, Valencia, Munich, Dusseldorf – let’s see what’s next!

Marie Utsch

Marie Utsch