Germany is the birthplace of many Christmas traditions celebrated around the world: the Advent calendar, carols such as “O Christmas Tree” and even the Christmas tree. I asked my friend Julia Seiberts, of Munich, to share with us how they spend Christmas in Germany. Julia is a devoted wife, mom to 2 handsome boys, and an animal lover. She graciously wrote this article about Christmas in Germany, and shared her recipe for “googly eye cookies,” a cookie typically made at Christmastime. Thank you Julia! Let’s learn about this special season of Christmas in Munich.
Germany is most famous for its Christmas celebrations. You cannot walk down the streets nowadays without encountering roasted chestnuts, and Christmas candies. Children have already started opening their Advent calendars, which deliver a little chocolate or toy every day until Dec. 24th. On Saint Nikolaus Day, the 6th of December, kids will put their shoes out in front of the fireplace or door before going to bed. If they were good that year St. Nikolaus will leave treats of fruit, nuts, chocolates, candies, and marzipan (though some more ‘modern’ families might replace this with CD’s or movies). If they were bad, they will get a different surprise – often coal or twigs. Families will gather to light a candle on the Advent wreath every Sunday before Christmas (starting 4 Sundays before the holiday) and will sing songs and drink hot chocolate together.
Munich celebrates its Christmas market, the Christkindlmarkt, beneath a splendid, almost 30-metre-tall Christmas tree with 2,500 candles. While Munich’s Christkindlmarkt is regarded as one of the most charming Christmas markets in Germany, the centre of almost every German town and city hosts a similar street market associated with the celebration of Christmas. Beautiful ornaments, handcrafted gifts, wooden toys and little plum figures “Zwetschgenmännla” are sold, along with food like sausages, baked potatoes, seasonal gingerbread, and hot mulled wine (Gluehwein). Christkindlmarkt‘s originated in Germany, and there are nearly 2,500 Christmas markets in the larger cities alone and people visit them in the evenings and on weekends.
Real Christmas trees are a must (fir trees or European spruce) and are put up on the 24th of December, right before Christmas Eve. The trees are decorated with real candles, sometimes homemade ornaments, and at the top of the tree- a Christmas Angel. The most popular Christmas decoration is the “Krippe-” a wooden nativity set. It is a religious tradition to pose/exhibit the Weihnachtsgeschichte around Christi birth. German Christmas trees are decorated rather sparse compared to other Christmas trees.
Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December. On this day shops are open until noon (to buy the last-minute presents). On Christmas Eve, wonderful meals are served: often roasted carp, we usually have Raclette, and others have Fondue. Raclette is a dish of Swiss origin, similar to a fondue, consisting of melted cheese traditionally served on boiled potatoes and accompanied with pickles; you melt the cheese slices in your little pan and then scrape them onto a plate, where the cheese is enjoyed with potatoes, cured meats, pickles, and bread (see a raclette grill here). After that sociable dinner and with well-filled stomachs the families attend the midnight mass and close with singing “Silent Night!”
“First” Christmas Day and “Second” Christmas Day
On the 25th of December people relax and take it easy. The second Christmas Day, December 26th, is also a national German holiday. A typical meal on that day is goose (as for Saint Martin). From December 24th through the 26th we have three days of being together with our families and eating, drinking, and talking. All of the shops and supermarkets are closed during the Christmas holidays, and only gas stations are open: the world in Germany comes to a halt and families have lots of time together.
Kulleraugen (Googly Eye Cookies):
300 g (3 cup) Flour
70 g (1/2 cup) Granulated Sugar
220 g (1 cup) Butter
1 packet/30g (7 tsp) of Vanilla Sugar (Vanillezucker)*
1 egg white
100 g (5/8 cup) ground Hazelnut
1) Form flour, sugars, salt and butter to a solid dough and let rest for 1 hour.
2) Form small balls of dough. Roll them in the beaten egg white, and then in the ground hazelnut. Press a hole in the middle of each cookie and fill with jam.
3) Bake at 180 ° C / 356 ° F for about 17 minutes on the middle rack.
*if you do not have Vanilla Sugar, and cannot make it at home, substitute vanilla extract and sugar.
Froehliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!
See all of our Christmas Around the World articles! So many amazing traditions from different cultures celebrating Christmas.