Christmas in Germany is a time filled with treats, decorations, and shopping. Many of the best-loved German traditions have made their way around the world. Here in the US, many people don’t realize that their trees and wreaths are products of 16th century Germany! Here to introduce some of the most famous German traditions are a few feline diplomats:
1. The Christmas Tree
Christmas trees found their way into the Christian tradition in the early 16th century. The first church Christmas tree was hung in St. George’s Church, Sélestat, which is located in what is now Alsace, France. Christmas trees soon found their way into the hearts of all and spread across Europe and, later, to the US. Originally, trees were decked out with dozens of tiny candles, but that proved to be (not surprisingly) pretty dangerous. Although, decorating nowadays comes with its fair share of risks as well.
2. Advent Calendar
The first printed Advent Calendar as we know it today was produced in Germany in 1903, thanks to Gerhard Lang. Back then, kids were excited about the chance to cut out a Christmas picture and paste it on the square, marking off the days til Christmas. In the 1930s Lang, who by then was something of an Advent Calendar Guru, got the idea to put baked goods behind each of the Advent doors and the rest is history. Now there is a calendar for everyone in the family, even some of the… ahem… less traditional family members:
3. “Silent Night” and “O, Christmas Tree”
“O, Tannenbaum” is perhaps one of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time, and yes, the German version IS the original! Silent Night was originally sung in the German language, but in Austria. Still, point for the German language!
4. The Gingerbread House
Gingerbread itself can be claimed by countries all over Europe, and many cities had rich traditions for decorating cookies with colorful icing. However, the gingerbread house owes its existence to two pairs of siblings: Hansel and Gretel and the Brothers Grimm. The tradition made its way to America, and we can’t be held responsible for what happened next…
5. The Candy Cane
Legend has it that this delicious treats originates in Cologne. The Choirmaster of the Cathedral, who was tired of listening to noisy children in the crowd, commissioned a candy maker to make a treat that would keep their mouths shut. The iconic shape is modeled after a shepherd’s staff. Now, kids and adults inhale them by the dozen. Christmas is the best time of year for candy! But…
6. The Advent Wreath
Traditionally, the wreath was another symbol of Advent time. They are decorated with four candles each, which represented the Sundays in December before Christmas. Originally, they were covered in 24 candles, one for each day before Christmas. Now, Advent wreaths can – and are -made out of anything and everything.
This crafter took “anything and everything” as a personal challenge, and we love it!
7. The Christmas Market
The opening of the local Christmas market, also known as a Christkindlmarkt, is for Germans a sign that Christmas time has begun. In recent years, Christmas markets are popping up all over the world, even in the US. In Germany, though, market goers are hardcore – Christmas shopping and entertainment can all be accomplished in one fell swoop for the veteran shopper. Neither rain nor snow, nor even a blizzard, will hold these shoppers back.
We will NOT claim ownership of THIS tradition. According to the (false) legend, parents in Germany used to hide a pickle ornament in a Christmas tree and whichever youngster was first to find it Chirstmas morning would get an extra present. We hate to disappoint but this is simply not true.
However, many cat owners in Germany have recently taken to hiding their cats in trees.*
Enjoy your presents under your tree! Sing “O, Tannenbaum” while enjoying your candy canes and gingerbread houses! Make an Advent wreath and visit a market!
Most of all, Merry Christmas and Frohe Weihnachten!
Written By Lauren Rogers