One more year the season of joy, celebration and forgiveness has arrived to Germany. Since the end of November, most of the streets are decorated with colorful lights as well as with lovely, traditional Christmas markets all around the country. The smell of Glühwein (traditional mulled wine) goes across the cities reminding us that it is time to look back, be grateful and share our time with our loved ones.
Since the beginning of the advent, people in Germany are getting ready to celebrate this period of the year with their families and friends. But, how do Germans celebrate Christmas? Do they have any special tradition? Let’s find it out!
Most relevant days
As well as many other European citizens, including Spaniards, Germans like to celebrate both Heiligenabend (Christmas eve) and Weihnachten (Christmas Day) with their loved ones. In most of the cases, family members get together to decorate the Christmas tree, to cook tasty traditional meals and to attend to midnight mass. Another important German tradition is to place all the Christmas presents under the Christmas tree.
The second day of Christmas, Saint Stephen´s Day, is a public holiday here in Germany. For many people, the 26th of December is a quiet occasion spent with friends or family to recover and to get ready for the winter sales, which start the third day of Christmas. Saint Stephen´s Day is also a good occasion to attend with the family to a special church service on behalf of this saint.
Another important day during Christmas time is New Year´s Eve, known here as Silvester. Unlike in Spain, this is a day to spend with close friends who are mostly invited to enjoy a home-made meal, often in the form of a buffet.
While in Spain we like to spend the last day of the year surrounded by our relatives, here in Germany most of the people prefer to celebrate it by hosting home parties or by attending to any New Year´s Eve Party. Does this mean that we Spaniards do not celebrate the entrance to the new year? Of course we do! However, we still follow the ancient traditions of eating 12 grapes at midnight with our loved ones before attending with our close friends to any new year´s event. A totally different way to celebrate, don´t you think?
In terms of food, Germans know how to celebrate this season sitting around a table full of delicious meals. Depending on the Christmas day they like to eat different kind of products.
A traditional Christmas Eve´s meal consists of carp or salmon accompanied by fried potatoes, sauerkraut, sausage and potato salad.
On Christmas day, Germans do like to start the day enjoying a variety of sweet snacks such as Plätzchen(biscuits covered in sugar), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Stollen(bread filled with dried fruit and marzipan) and Spekulatius(cookies flavored with cinnamon and other spices). Despite all the edible goodies during the day, they always have some room for a traditional Christmas Dinner. As a main dish, German families usually enjoy a roasted goose, turkey or duck, served with red cabbage and followed by a classic post-goose sweet such a pudding. Could you imagine yourself eating so much on Christmas day? At the beginning I was a bit shocked by this “all day eating” tradition.
In Spain, the 25th of December is the perfect occasion to spend time with the family while enjoying a huge meal consisting of seafood, traditional cold meat such as jamón or chorizo, lamb or hake, fruit andturrón (a confection made of almonds, honey, sugar and egg white and usually shaped into a rectangular tablet). Furthermore, as a country of wine producers, this beverage plays an important role during Christmas celebrations. In Germany, however, people prefer to accompany their meals with Sekt (sparkling wine) or champagne.
To celebrate the last dinner of the year, Germans enjoy preparing authentic homemade traditional recipes such as Sauerkraut, marinated herrings, potato salad, raclette and fondue. Silvester is traditionally full of activities such as playing games like “Bleigießen”, eating Berliner doughnuts, attending to mass, watching the popular English-language sketch “Dinner for one” or drinking Feuerzangenbowle. Midnight is marked by fireworks, toasts with champagne and best wishes and followed by a traditional midnight soup. In contrast to Spain, Silvester is mostly celebrated with friends either attending to public parties or preparing nice homemade meals.
As in many other countries, Christmas presents in Germany are shared during the night of the 24th of December, so that people can open them either after dinner or the morning after. In many Catholic families they are told that the Christ Child gave the presents, however, in protestant families are told that Father Christmas or Santa Claus brought them.
Although Santa Claus is becoming really popular in Spain, we still like to keep our Christmas traditions. For us, the night of the 5th of January is a magical one, because the Three Wise Men come from a faraway country to make our wishes come true. When the night falls and everybody sleeps, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar visit every single Spanish dwelling delivering all the desired presents.
Despite the different traditions, both, Germans and Spaniards, we like to organize family gatherings and to spend time with our loved ones, who may are far from us the rest of the year. Ok, it is true that this season is partly about giving and receiving gifts as well as cooking and eating tasty homemade meals. However, the real meaning of Christmas is similar in both cultures. This season is a good opportunity to look back and be grateful for all the things in life that we are fortunate to have.