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Christmas

Christmas 2017 and 2018

The Christmas season in Germany traditionally begins on Advent, the fourth Sunday before December 25th.

YearDateDayHolidayStates
201725 DecMonChristmasNational
26 DecTue2nd Christmas DayNational
201825 DecTueChristmasNational
26 DecWed2nd Christmas DayNational

Advent calendars are popular in homes throughout the country, especially those with children. These holiday calendars have 24 tiny doors with one door being opened each day to reveal chocolate or a small present in the lead up to Christmas Day.

Advent wreaths decorated with five candles adorn many tables. One candle is lit each Sunday with the fifth reserved for Christmas Day. Numerous Christkindlmarkts, open-air markets featuring vendors offering an assortment of ornaments, toys and holiday treats, such as glüwein and lebkuchen, are a popular highlight of the season as well.

On the night of December 5th, children leave their shoes outside so that St. Nicholas can fill them with chocolate, oranges and other treats if they have been good. His servant, Knecht Ruprecht – or Krampus – leaves a bundle of twigs if they have been naughty.

It is also traditional for parents to set aside a locked room for Christmas. A bell is rung on Christmas Eve to signal that it is time for the children to enter and see a decorated tree with presents delivered by Father Christmas waiting for them underneath. The custom of decorating a tree began in Germany in the early 17th century. The family enjoys a variety of treats while the Christmas story is read. After which, they sing carols and the children open their presents. Families may attend church service either before or after opening gifts. December 26 is also a holiday.

The Christmas season is a time for feasting and special holiday recipes, such as gingerbread houses and spiced cakes. The Christmas Eve meal typically consists of carp and potato salad. The following day, the family may enjoy roast goose or suckling pig along with marzipan and Christstollen, a bread-like fruitcake filled with raisins, nuts and dried fruits.