Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas in Germany

Other than the Weihnachtsmarkts, Glühwein and other obvious ways Christmas may be different for you here:

- The date(s!): Those of us in the US are accustomed to opening presents on Christmas morning. By Boxing Day (the 26th), most of us were back to work! In Germany, be prepared for all stores (including grocery stores) to be closed by mid afternoon on the 24th, opening again on the 27th. Gifts are exchanged on the evening of the 24th.The 25th (referred to as the First Day of Christmas) and the 26th (the Second Day of Christmas) are traditionally spent visiting family.

Some restaurants will be open on one or all of the above days, but by all means, call ahead. Make reservations if at all possible, as restaurants will be crowded.

What to do in a pinch? Try a döner shop, gas station, or train station.

- The gifts: While in the US, we tend to buy tons of gifts for our friends and relatives, here that is not expected. Gifts are often home made, and small gestures. When in doubt, a bottle of wine, or something the equivalent of a hostess gift in the US will suffice. More often than not, gifts are exchanged only with family.

- Who brings the gifts?: In the US, Santa brings the gifts, led by his reindeer of course! The Christkind brings the gifts here, under the tree, and stockings are rarely stuffed. By contrast- shoes are! But not on Christmas, rather on the night of December 5, you can read more about that here.

- The tree: The tree does not go up until the morning of the 24th, traditionally, and is taken down on Three Kings Day (January 6th), or even later! on Mariä Lichtmess (the 2nd of February). Nowadays, most people use electric lights on their trees, but it is still not uncommon to find lit candles.

- The Advent Calendar: Most of us are familiar with the chocolate Advent Calendar, with a little piece of chocolate behind each door, to be opened one a day, the 24 days before Christmas. Here? It is also a way to tell time. Advent officially begins the first Sunday after November 26, and you may see signs for an event happening "2. Wochenende Advent" (2nd weekend of Advent) for example. Also, instead of a tree in the weeks before Christmas, many Germans have Advent Wreaths on the table, with four candles, one for each week of Advent, to be lit on Sundays.

- Nativities: Far more nativities are on display here, when compared with the US. Bamberg, where I live, has over 400! That is not a typo. They are also far more intricate, and most are time specific. So, until December 24, you won´t see Jesus in the manger.

- Christmas can be scary! Depending on where you live, you may have Ruprecht or Krampus to contend with! So be on your best behavior boys and girls!

How is Christmas in Germany different from your home country? 

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