When I was talking with my friends from different European countries about Christmas traditions, I learned that some traditions are universal (at least all across Europe), while others are only known in a specific country. When we were talking about what we do during the Christmas season, they were all surprised to hear about Saint Nicholas, a kindly old man who fills children’s boots with chocolate, oranges and nuts on the night of the 5th of December, and even more to hear about his dark companion, Knecht Ruprecht, who gives coal to naughty children.
In Austria, you can see even stranger creatures roaming the snow-covered streets at the beginning of December. People dress up as the Krampus, a fearsome, devilish creature with horns and cloven hooves. On Krampusnacht (Krampus Night), a lot of people dress up as monsters and run through the streets beating everyone who isn’t fast enough with their chains. This might all sound very funny, but the costumes are really frightening, and you’d better run if you see a Krampus!
But we Germans also have nice Christmas traditions. In the run-up to Christmas, which is known as Advent and includes the whole of December, people decorate their homes with an Advent wreath with four candles, the first candle being lit on the first Sunday in December and one more on each Sunday. On Christmas Eve, December 24, which is called Heiligabend (Holy Evening), the Christmas tree is decorated. After going to church with the whole family there is a magnificent Christmas dinner, which is roast goose or roast carp in many homes, but in my family we always have Fondue, which can last for several hours. And then, of course, there are the presents, which are believed to be brought by the Christkind, an angel in a white robe.
And of course, let us not forget the wonderful culinary delights from Germany that you definitely have to try during the Christmas season! One of those in the German language, is Stollen, a traditional fruitcake that is often eaten during this time, when it is called Christstollen. It contains dried fruit, nuts and spices, and sometimes also marzipan. Another delicious treat is Nürnberger Lebkuchen, small cakes resembling gingerbread, which were invented in Franconia. When you visit the city centre of pretty much every German town, however small it is, you see that many lovely market stalls have been set up, wearing caps of snow and displaying all kinds of things, from handmade candles to wooden toys. And the best thing about Christmas Markets are, of course, the food stalls, which sell roasted almonds, mulled wine, German bratwurst and much more. The Christmas markets in Germany are always a great experience, so I can’t wait to visit an English Christmas Market and see what they are like!
By Julia Peschke
To find out more about German Christmas, click here!