Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: German Christmas Traditions

Thursday Thirteen#47 - 13 German "Weihnachten" (Christmas) Traditions

As most of you know,
my humans are Canadian, although we all currently live in Munich, Germany. Here are some German Christmas traditions, some of which differ from Christmas celebrations in Canada.
  1. Nikolaustag - On the evening of December 5th, German children leave their shoes or boots outside the front door. That evening, St. Nikolaus, visits and fills them with chocolates, oranges and nuts if they’ve been good. His servant, Knecht Ruprecht, leaves bundles of twigs in the shoes if the children have been naughty and are listed in his ‘black book’. On December 6th, St. Nicholas Day, children discover what they've received in their boots.

  2. Christmas Markets - Nearly every town in Germany has their own Christkindlmarkt, which is a market-fest, where people gather to enjoy the Christmas time. These markets offer baked goods, sweets and toys and feature local and regional specialties. Larger cities like Munich, Frankfurt or Nuremberg have large markets, and attract many tourists, both local and foreign. They open before the first Sunday of Advent, and usually continue until December 24th at 12 noon. You can check out a live webcam of the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz here in Munich here.

  3. Glühwein - German hot mulled wine. Served at the Christmas markets. On long winter nights of the 18th- and 19th centuries, it was customary to share a few glasses of the hot, spiced drink in the company of good friends. You can find a recipe for Glühwein, along with a non-alcoholic version for children, here.

  4. Weihnachtspyramide - The German Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide) was first developed in the Erzgebirge (Erz Mountains) in the German state of Saxony (Sachsen) as a low-cost substitute for a real Christmas tree in the late 1700s. A traditional pyramid is made of wood and may have two to five levels (Etagen). The heat from burning candles turns a windmill-like rotor at the top of the pyramid, making the pyramid revolve.

  5. Advent Wreaths - My humans are Catholic, so they are accustomed to lighting the Advent Wreath at Mass during the Sundays throughout Advent (the month leading up to Christmas). In the Catholic tradition, in Canada, there are three purple candles, and one pink candle (which is lit on the third Sunday in Advent). In Bavaria (which is Catholic) and in other regions of Germany, however, traditionally Germans have Advent wreaths in their homes, and the candles are typically red or gold.

  6. Christmas Dinner - A traditional German Christmas dinner consists of roast goose, potato dumplings, red cabbage, and baked apples for dessert. Recipes for this meal can be found here. Roasted pig and white sausages are also traditional foods for Christmas dinner. Other German Christmas foods include Christstollen, long loaves of bread with nuts, raisins, lemon and dried fruit; Lebkuchen, ginger spice bars/gingerbread; Marzipan and Stollen, a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit.

  7. Christmas Eve - Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) is the most important time of the Germanic celebration. There is no waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney. The presents (from the Christkindl, Christ Child) are opened under the tree that night (an event known as die Bescherung). Although in some regions, the Christkindl has been replaced by the Weihnachtman (Christmas Man). Christmas dinner usually comes after that. In religious families, attending midnight Christmas mass (Christmette) is also a part of the celebration.

  8. Krampus Run - The traditional "Krampus Run" recalls the Christian legend of bishop Saint Nicholas and his dark-faced companion, Krampus. Young men wearing deer horns, masks with red eyes, huge fangs, bushy coats of sheep's fur, and brandishing birchwood rods storm down the streets, confronting spectators. Anyone who doesn't dodge or run away fast enough might get swatted (although not hard) with the rod.

  9. Brides Tree - This is a Bavarian Christmas tradition. 12 ornaments are hung upon a tree to help bring good fortune to a newly married couple. The 12 ornaments symbolize the following: angel (God's guidance), bird (joy), fish (Christ's blessing), flower basket (good wishes), fruit basket (generosity), heart (true love), house (protection), pine cone (fruitfulness), rabbit (hope), rose (affection), Santa (goodwill), and teapot (hospitality).

  10. Epiphany - Heilige Drei Könige, January 6th is the day the three Magi came to visit the Christ Child. This is a holiday in Germany and it marks the end of the month and a half long Christmas celebration.

  11. Barbarazweig - In Catholic regions of Germany, such as Bavaria, the tradition of Barbarazweig begins on the feast day of die heilige Barbara (the Holy Barbara, ie. St. Barbara). A small cherry branch or sprig is cut off and placed in water on December 4th, Barbaratag (St. Barbara's Day). Sometimes a twig from some other flowering plant or tree may be used: apple, forsythia, plum, lilac, or similar blossoms. The cherry branch (Kirschzweig) or other cutting is then placed in water and kept in a warm room. If all goes well, on Christmas day the sprig will display blossoms. If it blooms precisely on December 25th, this is regarded as a particularly good sign for the future.

  12. December 26th, der zweite Weihnachtstag - As in Canada, December 26th is a holiday. Whereas in Canada we celebrate Boxing Day on the 26th, in Germany, the 26th is a day reserved for visiting friends and family, and is the second day of Christmas. (The first day of Christmas is Christmas itself, and the twelfth day of Christmas is January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.)

  13. Christmas Tree - The Tannenbaum or Christbaum originated in Germany. Although many Germans now decorated their Christmas trees with electric lights, many still use candles to light their trees. Germans use special candle holders and have learned how to do this safely; the candles are not left to burn for a long time or without someone in the room.

57 comments

sandierpastures said...

#8is scary! A friend in Germany has told me about the Christmas Market. I would love to visit someday.

michico*Adan said...

Wowww..... these are very good news, thanks for let me learn.
I am very happy to know About No.12~!!! Now I get it~!!

Thanks a lot~!!!

Ivan Girl said...

nice! very interesting information you have there. =)

do visit my T13 @ Dear Me blog. =)

topcatrules said...

Hi! We really enjoyed reading that. :)

Sandy Carlson said...

The mulled wine at an open air market sound just lovely! St. Nick's friend is new to me. I think I've seen him around here lately....so I'm behaving!
Writing in Faith

K. said...

While I'm pretty much your average non-denominational American, my family heritage is German Catholic, so this post was so amazing to read, thank you! I especially loved the reminder of the Christmas pyramids, my Grandma had one of those and it seemed so magical to me.

Coco said...

eeeks... I want to have Christmas in Germany... one day, I hope... :)

China Cat said...

Dragonheart, first I wanted to say how nice and Christmas-y your blog header looks! I really enjoyed reading about all the German traditions you wrote about today. Both my mom's and dad's families are of German descent. My dad was in Germany when he was in the army and has always wanted to take my mom there - he thought it was so beautiful. However, I personally think that the Krampus Run sounds a bit scary!

Purrrrrrrs, China Cat

MISS PEACH >(^.^) said...

My sweetest brother Dragonheart! Soon your little brother will be here! This will be such a happy Weihnachten for you all...
Thank you so very much for all the wonderful reminders of Weihnachten for my mommy! She almost cried a little about all the wonderful things she misses so much. But this weekend we will be looking for Weihnachten in the mountains of Washington to help her this season with the homesick stuff. I get to go too!!
Much fuzzy love from Peach
Oh don't forget to tell about the Holy Three Kings going from door to door singing and blessing the homes with their sign on the doors they are called Die Sternen Sanger...

jenn said...

Very interesting.
Bakes apples...yummy!
I also like the brides tree, and how each ornament represents something.
Happy tt!

Ramses said...

Oh dat's very interestin' now I know where the interesting smellin' mulled wine My Mummy so loves cones from! Dad's addicted to dat marzipan stollen, though anything with marzipan has a short life expectancy around Dad! ;)

We'z haded a German Christmas fair over here last year and My Mummy boughted 2 lovely wooden hand carved cats at it... They'z look just like me! :)

Purrs,
Ramses

DrillerAA said...

The Brides tree is a great tradition and I love the symbols associated with the ornaments. Can't say that I much care for the Krampus run.

Merry Christmas and Happy TT

Queen Snickers or Empress said...

That is so neat, momma told me customs very from country to country but we had no idea all the neat things there were in Germany. We know some about the Advent wreath because daddy was Methodist growing up and they do that. Momma is Baptist and they don't have any special Christmas things like that. P.S. I don't keep Empress from sleeping with Momma, I don't know why she is mad at me! She is too scairt of daddy still to get on the bed at night.

The Meezers said...

these sound very interesting!

FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

This is nice to know. I have as T13 different christmas traditions and Germany is in one of the list.

Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

Oh, we think dat Krampus Run would be kinda scary and aciting at da same time. We love learning about Krissmouse traditions in other countries.

jenianddean said...

Fantastic T13. My mom knew some the traditions because they have friends that are German and were living in the US for a couple of years. My mom and dad celebrated with them those couple of years to help them feel like they were back home with their families.

-Jasper McKitten-Cat

Monty Q. Kat said...

Roast goose? I'm coming over!

Bethany said...

Oh I love it! I spent a semester in Austria and really enjoyed the Christmas traditions over there. We had a Christmasmarkt right on our campus in the tiny Austrian town a few hours from Vienna. Thank you for the wonderful memories!

Sharon said...

Oh I really enjoyed this TT!
I spent a semester in Austria back in 1999, and I experienced the Christmas Markets, Gluhwein, Krampus Run etc. The Krampus were freakishly cool. lol

I'd love to go back one day! Thanks for sharing this list. Have a great Thursday! :)

The Furry Kids said...

Those are very interesting Christmas facts, DH. #8 seems a little askeery, though. :/
We didn't know that German Advent wreaths had red or gold candles. Mom and Dad are Lutheran and their candles are pink and purple, too.
Momma is craving red cabbage and potato dumplings now. She and Daddy might have to go out for German food for dinner tonight. hee hee
Happy Thursday, Dragonheart!

Diamond Emerald-Eyes said...

Those are very interesting facts (but not as much fun as playing in a box).

TT said...

#13 scairt mommy - she didnt reads the rest befores she said "what about it catching fire?"

Those are neat customs to learn abouts.

Kaze, Latte, & Chase said...

That is very interesting! I love learning about different cultures thanks for sharing.

Kaze

Samantha & Tigger said...

A month and a 1/2 of Christmas! Mom would love that! Thanks for sharing all the German Christmas traditions, they were very neat! Have a wonderful Thursday!
Your FL furiends,

Rian Fike said...

That Krampus trip is the coolest Christmas thing I have ever seen.

Brilliant list.

Daisy said...

Those are some really neat traditions! Except I might be a little scairt of the Krampus Run.

Cheysuli and gemini said...

That was fascinating. I am surprised at how many Catholic traditions there are, as one tends to think of Germany as Lutheran. My human worked at a Lutheran school, so believe me, German and Norwegian names abound! (like hers).

C.

Zenmomma said...

That Krampus Run scares me!

Caesar and Princess said...

Christmas time in Germany is so wonderful. Mommie lived there when she was a little girl. Such a special time and very good memories.

Happy Thursday DH!!

tanabata said...

I love hearing about traditions in other countries. Thanks for sharing!

Parker said...

When My Mommy was little her Grandma had a Weihnachtspyramide - she was fascinated by it.
That was a great read Dragonheart. Thanks, as always!

Junior said...

I want the 26th to be christmass too! That way Meowm can stay home with me!!!

Kellie The Orange Cat said...

Dragonheart, this was a very informative post, as usual.

I didn't know Christmas differed so much in Germany, it is all very interesting!

Bounce, Lucy and Trixie said...

It was great to read about all the German traditions at Christmas. Some of them sound like fun, except getting swatted with a stick.

Siani said...

Interesting post, Dragonheart. I could do with a nice hot glass of German mulled wine at the moment, as it's so cold. Happy TT!

My TT is up at Siani's Pot-Pourri.

Denise Patrick said...

No fair making me "homnesick". I so miss Christkindlmarkts, Gluhwein, and everything else about Christmas in Germany. Next year dh and I are doing a Christkindlmarkt trip in early December. I can't wait!!

Happy TT!

Tybalt said...

Wow, what a great and interesting Thursday Thirteen, Dragonheart! I'll have to share the recipes with mommy. Purrrs!

Mickey said...

Excellent post!! It's nice to know what beans do in other countries:)
Mom tried goose on year and did not like it so we stick with turkey:)
Purrs Mickey

Anonymous said...

Er..hello...just wondering if you had received any packages lately, Dragonheart? I am thinking the thing I sent you should be there by now...getting a bit worried about it!

Your anonymous Secret Paw

ASTOR CATS said...

Thanks for sharing the information on all the different traditions. We really enjoyed reading about them. Mom says she's going to send the information on the brides tree to her neice who just recently got married. Mom especially likes the significance of the ornaments.

Midnite & Stray Kitty

Captain Jack and Dante said...

How interesting! Mommy says she remembers seeing the pyramids when she was a child and wlasy loved them - watching things spin in the heat of a candle. So lovely. Thanks for sharing!

HRH Yao-Lin said...

That is avery very interesting TT Dragonheart. I love it. Especially the description of the traditional German Christmas dinner. It sounds delicious!! x

The Devil Dog said...

Wow Dragonheart. I learn so many neat interesting things from you. Mom thinks #4 is especially cool. Dad's dad went to England one year as an exchange teacher so he likes Boxing Day as well.

Roxy

Nicholas said...

Very interesting. It all sounds very enjoyable, especially the mulled wine!

Eric and Flynn said...

That was very interesting to learn all about the German customs. Our mum likes the Gluhwein, she always has it over Christmas. Boxing Day is our favourite day because the Beans go out for Christmas Day, and on Boxing Day we all stay at home together and eat and eat and eat!! We don't think we would like to be whapped with a stick though on the krampur Run.

Dr Tweety of da Fab Five said...

Oh da momee here haz alwayz wanted to go to dat nighttime German Christ-must market. But we also learned lots of other furry good tingz abouts where you live.

Tyler said...

Wow Dragonheart, what a wonderfully informative post. My mom loves learning about different cultures. Since she has some German ancestry in her it makes what she learned on your blog even more interesting.

Derby said...

Mum read this and said yes, she does most of this stuff. Her family roots are German.

pussreboots said...

We have some strong German roots in our family and follow many of the traditions. Happy TT.

Chairman Mao said...

Wowie, that was really inneresting reading! Thankies fur sharing those traditions. i like the idea of the Christmas boots -- and the bestest boots to put out would be Daddy's cuz he's got such big footsies... lots and lots of Temptayshuns would fit in there!

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao!

PB & J said...

What a cool lists - we think it's very interesting to learn about other ways to celebrate the holidays!

Max said...

The Woman went to the Christkindlmart in Munich when she was little...she says that's what Christmas smells like to her. I don't get it, so, whatever...

;)

The Cat Realm said...

The maid didn't even know about 8, 9, and 11!!!!!
Are you at the red carpet party??? it is so crowded and there is so much champagne - I lose oversight....
You did such an awesome job, Dragonheart! What an actor you are. And your part was really difficult. And I have to say - you inspired a WHOLE NEW episode for CCSI in me... I'll tell you about it next year, we need a LITTLE break, I think...

MondaythroughSunday said...

I love the Christmas markets! If you want to celebrate Christmas right...spend it in Germany!

Gynevra said...

It's Christmas spirit on the air. Even in our hi-tech times people should fit the situation :) Put this little Santa webcam http://www.webcam-list.com/blog/2007/12/santa-webcam.html
near your Christmas tree - and share your Christmas Eve with the globe! Marry Xmas!

Dragonstar said...

Many thanks for all this fascinating information.