Since Thanksgiving doesn’t exists in Germany, they are allowed to succumb to Christmasness a whole month earlier than in America. We started listening to Christmas music right after Halloween! Heidelberg is already decorated from top to bottom- lights strung over the walk ways, warm, inviting window displays, and Christmas trees in every main square. This is my first Christmas season in Germany, so I am still learning about their unique traditions and customs. I thought you might be interested in a few fun facts I’ve gleaned so far:
1. December 24- The exchanging of gifts actually occurs on the evening of December 24th in German homes, not the morning of December 25th. Families have a traditional christmas dinner of roast goose and spend the night in celebrating!
2. Christmas Markets- Christmas Markets are a collection of artisan stalls selling handcrafted goods, homemade food, and an assortment of other charming things! They are usually held in the main square of a town, and have include a giant Christmas tree and Ice rink. This tradition dates back to the middle ages, and is one of the country’s main tourist attractions. Heidelberg’s Christmas market starts tomorrow, Nov. 24th at 11am (Not that I’m counting down the seconds or anything…)
3. ChristKind- Instead of Santa Clause bringing the children presents on Christmas, the Christkind brings presents to the good little girls and boys. Kind means child, and it is literally a small child figure meant to symbolize baby Jesus. Sometimes German children will even dress up in swaddling cloth like baby Jesus and walk around the Christmas Markets!
4. Eat, Drink, and be Merry- The traditional drink sold at Christmas time is Glüh Wein- a hot, mauled red wine that tastes a bit like apple cider. As for food, there are a dozen stands selling chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes), and ginger bread!
5. Christmas Trees and Pyramids- The tradition of placing a Christmas tree in one’s house is believed to have started in Germany in the 16th century. Pagans thoughts the evergreen tree was representative of Spring’s return because it stayed green all winter. They brought it inside to remind them that Spring will come again! As Paganism was superseded by Christianity in most of Europe, the tree became a symbol of Christ’s birth. Martin Luther was allegedly the first to add lights to the Christmas tree for decoration. If a family could not find or afford a real tree, they would made an adorable Christmas Pyramid- those little wooden windmill with little figurines and embellishments that spin.