The Christmas season in Germany traditionally begins on Advent, the fourth Sunday before 25 December.
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Advent calendars are popular in homes throughout Germany, 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.
On the night of 5 December, 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 and continues today. 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.