Did you know St Nicholas is a more important figure in Germany than Santa Claus? St Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 5th where children clean their boots and leave outside the door. Upon awakening the children with sweets and small gifts. Did you also know that St Nicholas had an evil sidekick called Krampus? On St Nicholas Night men dress as Krampus and patrol the streets, some even visit some homes of very naughty children.
We have all heard of Advent calendars but Advent Wreaths (Adventskranz) are a German Lutheran tradition started in the 16th century where each family has a wreath either made or bought like the one below, consisting of four candles. Some families light one candle each Sunday before Christmas, some wait to light them all on the last Sunday.
One tradition we will miss worldwide this year is the Christmas market, whose origin can be traced back to German speaking parts of Europe in the 15th Century. Germany would traditionally have just over 2,500 Christmas markets nationwide, attracting tourists all over Europe with fine foods, craft stalls, the carousel, the huge Christmas tree, the nativity scene, the carol singers and lets not forget the mulled wine (Glühwein). The hot drink that will be sure to keep you warm, and is available in keepsake ceramic cups as mementos of your Christmas market visit.
If mulled wine isn’t strong enough for you, how about Fire Tong Punch (Feuerzangenbowle), a potent German drink made of mulled wine and rum with a high alcohol level, oh and I forgot to say- it's set on fire too! This drink is popular due to Die Feuerzangenbowle movie, where a man gets drunk on Feuerzangenbowle and dresses up and goes back to high school, it’s a fun holiday movie sure to get you laughing.
Oh Tannenbaum is the German Christmas tradition of decorating the tree. Before an actual Christmas tree was present, German families would decorate their house with evergreen branches before deciding then to bring an entire tree into the home. Traditionally candles sat on the tree, silk flowers, apples, gingerbread, but now we see ornaments, chocolates and homemade cookie decorations. The most popular ornament on the tree is the Christmas angel, German homes will have many on the tree but also around the house. These little figurines are usually made of wood, and can be seen with musical instruments in their hands.
German Christmas food is the best, even I do say so myself. We have Christmas Stollen which is a traditional German Christmas cake made of flour, fruit, nuts, spices, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The most famous Stollen ‘fruitcake’ is the Dresden Stollen available in all supermarkets, shaped with tapered ends and a ridge down the center, symbolizing the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. Lebkuchen is another German Christmas treat, and one you may have seen around our office before. The cookie tends to look like gingerbread but is made of honey, spices and nuts, available soft or hard, with or without a loving message on top. We also love our chocolate Santa’s and we have found such a great collection in Lidl and Aldi this month. We often bake cookies to eat, and to decorate and hang on our trees, if you want to bake a traditional German cookie, see the recipe here.
As we enter the final countdown to Christmas, we are already preparing for our next semester in January 2021 with some of our courses full. Do you want to learn German in the new year and advance your language skills? Check out our courses today. Here is our timetable