Christmas in Germany
By Jade Hughes
During my year abroad in 2018-2019, I had the chance to experience a magical Christmas in Bavaria. As I reminisce about my time there, here are some of the highlights of the festive period in Germany:
The cities were transformed into a utopia for Christmas lovers. Starting just before December, Christmas markets filled the main squares of cities across the country. The stalls offer a variety of handmade gifts, such as delicate glass ornaments and cute nutcrackers. Naturally, there was also plenty of food and drink to hand, such as the famous Glühwein (mulled wine) in decorative mugs; each one beautifully decorated with pictures as well as bearing the name of the area from which they came. When buying a drink there, you pay a small fee as a deposit for the mug, meaning you can choose to keep them as souvenirs at the end of the day. I ended up collecting a fair few of them from various markets around Bavaria!
A personal highlight was the famous market in Nuremberg, which is known as being one of the oldest in the world. This Christkindlesmarkt retains much of its traditional charm with beautifully crafted decorations as well as traditional Franconian sausages, which are a staple on the menu of any restaurant in Nuremberg. The most memorable event of this market, however, is not the food, but rather the opening ceremony. The ‘Christkind’, traditionally played by a young girl from the area, welcomes guests to the market by reciting a monologue which enchants children and adults alike by asking that we all “be young again.” Wandering around the stalls with the warm glow of the fairy lights and the sparkling of tinsel reinforces this; it’s truly enough to turn even the most miserable adults into bright-eyed children again.
The 6th of December is an important day for German children. They put their shoes out on their doorstep on the evening of this day, St. Nicholas Day, and they wake up to find treats such as chocolates inside! If you’re unlucky, however, you may be visited by Krampus, a scary beast who often gives out coal to bad children, so they know to be on their best behaviour! Some cities also have a Krampuslauf (Krampus Run) on this day, which is a race in which participants try to outpace someone dressed as the demon. He wears bells and chains so you can hear him coming – be sure to get out of the way, or risk being hit by his bundle of sticks!
In Bavaria, it is believed that the Christkind is the one who delivers the presents, whereas elsewhere in the country, they tend to believe in der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus). Regardless of which magical being they believe in, the children write letters to them to ask for gifts big and small, much like we do in the United Kingdom. Unlike here, though, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, meaning children get to open all their presents a day earlier than most people in Britain! They also get to tuck into a delicious Christmas meal, which may feature turkey, but could also be goose, duck or fish as well as traditional German side dishes such as red cabbage and potato dumplings. Stollen, a fruit bread, is likely to be on the menu for dessert, as well as Lebkuchen (a gingerbread-esque snack) and Plätzchen (Christmas biscuits). Although there are some differences between Christmas in the UK and Germany, the basic premises remain the same – presents, good food, decorations and time spent with loved ones.
Frohe Weihnachten! (Merry Christmas!)