Germany is home to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. But, what else do you know about Christmas traditions in Germany? Sure, markets originated in Germany, but there’s a lot more to this festive winter holiday in Germany than mere markets and mulled wine.
From the infamous Krampus to a special celebration on the sixth of December, there are quite a few German Christmas traditions that few other countries celebrate. And, if you’re planning on travelling to Germany this holiday season, you’ll definitely want to familiarise yourself with all of the wonderful holiday events before you go.
After all, you don’t want to be seen as a Scrooge. Or worse, you don’t want Krampus to come and get you. Avoid any awkward encounters and make the season bright by taking a look at these seven unique Christmas traditions in Germany.
1. St. Nicholas Day
One of the biggest Christmas traditions in Germany is St. Nicholas Day, which falls on December 6th every year. The evening before, children are asked to polish their boots and leave them outside of their front door. In the morning, they’re filled with candy and small gifts from St. Nicholas, not the commercialised Santa that most Western countries see.
2. Advent Calendars
A big part of Christmas traditions in Germany revolves around the Advent. From advent calendars to something called an Advent Kranz, it’s quite popular around the holidays. Advent calendars are a must if you’re in Germany for the entire month of December. Advent Kranz is a ring of fir tree branches, however, with four candles. Families light one candle at the beginning of each week of Advent.
Image: German Beer Steins
3. Christmas Markets
Christmas markets originated in Germany, with the first one thought to have been held in Munich in 1310. Today, there are over 2,5000 Christmas markets all over Germany you can visit, all of them characterised by fantastical Christmas lights, the smell of roasting chestnuts, and spicy mulled wine. These are the places where families go to get into the holiday spirit. And, they’re a great place to buy handcrafted souvenirs if you’re a tourist.
4. Krampus Night
Seeing as the feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on the sixth of December each year, the night before is considered Krampus Night. According to legends, Krampus accompanies St. Nick in order to attend to all those on the naughty list. In modern German culture, men will sometimes still dress up in beast-like devil suits just to wander the streets the evening of December 5th.
5. “Fire Tong” Punch
Mulled wine is great and all, but the Germans do it even better with their festive Feuerzangenbowle, or “Fire Tong” Punch. This incredibly potent drink mixes strong rum and mulled wine to create a fiery concoction that’ll burn your lungs going down, in the best way possible. They’ll set it on fire before you drink it, too, which is where it gets its name.
6. Christmas Stollen
When it comes to German Christmas traditions, the holiday season simply isn’t complete without a nice slice of Stollen, the traditional German Christmas cake. It’s similar to a standard holiday fruit cake, but it’s sprinkled with powdered sugar and sometimes includes a zest for an extra kick. If you’re interested in trying it, head to Dresden.
7. Three Kings Festival
In parts of Europe, Christmas celebrations carry over into January. January 6th is the religious feast of Epiphany. In Germany, it’s called Das Dreikönigsfest, which translates to the Three Kings Festival. On this day, children dress up as the kings and go around from house to house to sing in return for donations they later give to children’s causes.