In Japan, it’s KFC on Christmas Even; in Norway, it’s hiding your mops and brooms to prevent evil spirits; and in Sweden, it’s getting together with the whole family to watch the “Donald Duck Christmas Special.”
All around the world, people are celebrating Christmas with their own traditions. So, let’s have a closer look at the founders of Christmas markets – Germany. Here are 5 traditions that you should adapt for your own festivities.
You have probably heard about Advent calendars? No? Then this is for sure a tradition that you will love, because who doesn't love opening up a little door every day in December? The Season of Advent includes all four Sundays before Christmas and focuses on the expectation and celebration of Christ’s birth. In that time, there are different calendars used in German homes. You can build your own or buy them in any store, where they are filled with toys, chocolates or toiletries.
As well as a calendar, an Advent wreath decorates most German homes. Most families make the Advent wreath themselves, which is generally a circle of green with four candles representing each of the four Sundays. On the first Sunday, there will be one candle lit on the Advent wreath, then two, then three and then on the fourth Sunday, all four candles will be lit.
No Christmas season is complete without at least one visit at a Christmas market. The streets of every historic city center of a major German city is full of Christmas market stalls. You can find seasonal handcrafts like our star, mulled wine, marzipan and nougat, as well as other snack bars with yummy things to try. If you have a close look, you will even find our Herrnhut star decorating the little huts situated on the market. If you are planning a trip to Germany for Christmas, visiting one of these Christmas markets is a must. If not, we are looking forward to seeing you at our Herrnhuter Sterne booth near you.
Herrnhut stars make a special appearance during the Advent and Christmas season to decorate apartments, churches, and squares. For many German families, the Herrnhut Star (also known as the Moravian Star) is the mother of all Christmas decorations and a beautiful, festive tradition. The ritual in the homeland of the Herrnhut stars, the Oberlausitz, is that with the first glow of the stars, the Christmas season ‘officially’ begins! The Herrnhut star symbolizes the light of Bethlehem and Gold as the origin of all Christmas stars.The Herrnhuter Star was first created by a teacher in a Moravian School in Niesky, Germany. He used the star to explain Geometry, as it has 17 quadrangular and 8 triangular points — the mathematical vocabulary for it is rhombicuboctahedron.
It was soon adopted by the Moravian Church to represent the Star of Bethlehem. Pieter Verbeek, one of the graduates of the Moravian School opened a bookstore in 1880 and used the Star to decorate his little store. Soon after that, his son expanded the bookstore into a factory and began selling the Herrnhut Star all over the world. His factory was destroyed by the Soviet Army in World War 2. After the war was finished, the East German government took over the factory, until it was later turned over to the Moravian Church. Today, it is run by the Herrnhuter Sterne GmbH, an economic undertaking of the Moravian Church and can be found all over the world.
The Feast of St. Nicholas on the 6th December is an important part of the pre-Christmas time. He is not only a gift-bringer but also a good influence, because you have to clean your shoes before he comes and put them outside the door. If you haven't cleaned your shoes properly and been good, then you will not have any presents in your shoe.
The gift exchange in Germany takes place on December 24th. The night before is usually the time when the Christmas tree is decorated. Many families will go to church on Christmas Eve and have the Christmas presents under the tree ready to be unpacked. Martin Luther created the figure Christ Child around 1535 as the bringer of the gifts. But with the Europeans immigrants introducing Nicolaus, he became Father Christmas. Therefore, a lot of children no longer know Christ Child or that Father Christmas and Nikolaus are one and the same person.
December 25th and December 26th are also holidays in Germany. On those two days, most people visit relatives and friends or invite them over. At least one of the two days is celebrated with a big meal, with goose or carp as a traditional main course.
We hope to have brought you near some of our German traditions — some may be weird and some may be wonderful. In the end, it is your family traditions that will make your Christmas unique.