German Christmas Traditions


Christmas celebrations in Germany

Christmas in Germany is a very special celebration, which does not focus on the one or two days of the year. But a whole season of leading up to the special day and the proceeding twelve days after.

Many of our Christmas traditions in Australia have stemmed from German Christmas traditions, however we do not celebrate anywhere near as much, as the extravaganza that is Christmas in Germany.


Christmas starts in December!

Christmas time begins at the start of December, or when the season starts to change. The days become short and cold, the winter snows fall and people retreat into their homes. It is during these cool, short days that people start to prepare for the festivities.


What do the German's do leading up to Christmas?

Most people make their own decorations, mantles and tables are festooned with decorations. Tiny Christmas trees are made from native pinecones, which adorn spaces around the home. Nativity scenes are extremely popular, usually handmade from the famous German clay or locally grown wood. Moss from the forests are placed among the wooden or clay figures, a very different display from the desert scenes of Bethlehem.

These decorations cover the home throughout the whole season, being added to, as the family completes their latest work.


Making and using Advent calendars

Advent calendars appear at the beginning of December, which are a little different from the cardboard doors or fabric hangings with presents inside. The traditional calendar made from a flat laid wreath with four candles placed upon it. A candle is lit on each Sunday night leading up to Christmas and a the special “advent song” is sung along to the burning of the candle (a bit like a birthday cake!), a different verse is sung for each Sunday.

Read more about advent calendars in our blog here


Making Christmas tree decorations 

Decorations are made to make the entire house festive, however special decorations are made just for the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is not put up until Christmas Eve, so the decorations are painstakingly crafted throughout the entire month.

Read more about the origins of the Christmas tree


Getting creative - Carving and painting Christmas decorations

German people are especially good at carving (you can tell by the amazing work they do with the Cuckoo Clocks), and they use these skills to make decorations just for the tree. But they do also make other types, including stars made from straw, and hearts or trees made from candle wax.

Glass baubles are also a very popular Christmas tree decoration, while not everyone is skilled at blowing glass, they will purchase ready blown baubles to paint at home. These baubles are very popular at the German Christmas Markets.


German Christmas Markets 

The German Christmas Markets are a sight to behold, taking over many cities across Germany, the markets are jam packed with the beautiful decorations that Germans are famous for. Everything from tiny wooden figurines, intricate glass baubles to enormous Christmas Pyramids that spin in the candlelight. Thousands of fairy lights, giant Christmas Trees and ridiculously large pyramids accompaniment the intricate stalls. Visitors are welcomed with live music and endless amounts of delicious hot food, hot chocolate and spiced wine.


Baking and food preparation for a German Christmas!

Food is also an extremely important part of the festive season, with people making baked goods for weeks leading up to the special days. Our friend Madi shares a few of her family recipes with us, including Lebkuchen biscuits and Stolen fruit loaf (See our recipe blog by Madi) which are only a few of about 40(!) that are made during the season.


Christmas Eve: The highlight of a German Christmas!

Once the decorations have been crafted, days completed in kitchens, finally the big day arrives. No not the 25th, Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is the celebratory day in Germany, and a lot of traditions have been passed down the generations for this day.

The Christmas tree finally arrives and the children are ushered outside to play or are sent to do chores, while the adults set up the entire space. The tree is adorned with all the decorations made throughout December and the presents are placed underneath, ready and waiting.

The entire family then dresses themselves in their finest clothing and the dinner is served, usually an array of potatoes, salads and Vienna sausages, under the glow of steady candlelight. It is only after the formal dinner is finished that the children finally get to see the tree.

A Christmas Bell is rung, carols are played and the entire family walks into the living room where the tree has been setup. Then the family relaxes, eating enormous amounts of biscuits and washing it down with warm Glühwein. Presents are given and opened before night ticks over to Christmas Day.


Christmas Day

Christmas day itself is a less formal occasion, with Church services and the beginning of the Christmas break. Unknown to many people, Christmas Day is actually the first day of the 12 days of Christmas.


The 12 days of Christmas

While many companies will have a twelve-day lead up to Christmas, the tradition is actually from Christmas day. This stems from the Christmas story of when Jesus was born (on Christmas day) and the proceeding twelve days that it takes the wise men to learn of his birth and their travels to see him. The twelve days end on the day that the wise men reach baby Jesus and present him with his three gifts.

Because of these twelve days of Christmas, it is extremely bad luck to remove your Christmas tree until the 6thof January.

The 12 days after Christmas also contain the New Years celebration, which is a much smaller affair than Christmas, but of course still includes lots of food and drink. Small gifts are also given to love ones to bring them good luck for the following year. Four leaf clovers, horseshoes and Marzipan or ceramic Lucky Pigs are symbols of good luck in Germany and are very popular.


Christmas with loved ones is always a special occasion, why not take some traditions from the way Germany celebrates. Maybe make your own decorations or have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner.


Check out our range of traditional German Christmas decorations online.