Christmas in Germany: Facts About German Christmas Traditions

How is Christmas celebrated in Germany? Read on to discover all about the traditions, Christmas foods, and festive rituals that are common in German households during the festive period.

  • In Germany, Christmas gifts are exchanged after dinner on Christmas Eve (24th December).
  • One of the most popular Christmas Eve meals in Germany is potato salad with sausages. Carp is also eaten in some parts of the country.
  • The traditional meal on Christmas Day is roast goose, duck or rabbit, served with red cabbage, dumplings made from potato, and sausage stuffing.
  • In many parts of Germany, St Nicholas is more important than Santa Claus. Traditionally, children in Germany leave polished boots outside their houses on 5th December, and in the morning wake to find them filled with nuts, small gifts and sweets.
  • St Nicholas is thought to travel with a devilish sidekick called Krampus. It is the job of Krampus to scare naughty children into behaving better.
  • Advent calendars have traditionally been used in Germany as a way of marking the countdown to Christmas. Starting on 1st December, a window is opened each day, revealing sweets, small gifts, or parts of a story. Many families make their own advent calendars.
  • An advent wreath is an important Christmas decoration in Germany, and the tradition of burning candles during advent can be traced back to the 16th century. In Germany, advent wreaths are called Adventskranz, and they consist of candles, pine cones and branches, Christmas decorations and dried flowers.
  • Lebkuchen, a type of gingerbread, contains honey, nuts, and a range of Christmas spices. It can be baked hard or soft, and is often decorated with icing and served at Christmas fairs, festivals and markets.
  • Mulled wine (called Gluhwein) in Germany is often drunk at Christmas events.
  • Another German Christmas alcoholic drink is Feuerzangenbowle. Rum is added to mulled wine, making the drink very potent.
  • The tradition of holding Christmas markets can be dated all the way back to the Middle Ages. There are more than 1000 Christmas markets in Germany during the festive period, with stalls selling Christmas food, ornaments and decorations.
  • Christmas angels are one of the most wll-loved types ornaments in a German household. Used to decorate Christmas trees and German houses, they are often made of wood, and usually show the angels playing musical instruments.
  • German Christmas cake is known as stollen. Full of fruit, nuts and spices, and sprinkled with icing sugar, it is enjoyed in the majority of German houses at Christmas time.
  • In the seventeenth century, German families started to bring pine trees into their houses at Christmas time. Early decorations included apples, gingerbread shapes and flowers. By the 19th century, nearly every house in Germany had a real Christmas tree in their living rooms, and this tradition has been carried on to this day.
  • Another traditional Christmas decoration in Germany is the nativity scene, with carved wooden figures and animals.
  • Other Christmas foods eaten in Germany include Christmas cookies (Platzchen) and chocolate Santas.

What next? Find out about how other countries celebrate Christmas, discover some Christmas facts, or learn more about Germany.