5 Fascinating Facts About Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany is similar to Christmas in North America in many ways but there are some differences which I found rather surprising at first:

1st Fact About Christmas in Germany – Santa Clause Doesn’t Come at Christmas

I know what you’re thinking, oh those poor German children, but don’t feel too sorry for them, since while Santa Clause (Weihnachtsmann in German) may not come, Christkind (the Christ Child in English) is the gift bearer in Germany and throughout different parts of Europe. Christkind couldn’t look more different than Santa Claus though.  He is usually depicted as a child and angel-like with curly blond hair.  As with Santa Claus though, children never see Christkind in action (hopefully).  It also should be said that the Weihnactsmann is becoming increasing more common as the gift bearer in Germany,  much to the chagrin of some people as the above photo demonstrates translating as “We believe in the Christ Child, don’t give Santa Claus a chance.”

Christkind comes at Christmas time in Germany
One depiction of Christkind who makes an appearance every Christmas in Germany

#2. Christmas Comes Early

Children in North America would be so jealous of children in Germany if they knew they got their presents a whole 12 hours earlier.  Christkind comes in the early evening of Dec 24th and presents are opened that evening instead of waiting until the morning of the 25th.  It closely resembles Christmas morning in North America, but perhaps with fewer presents since many Germans are more practical with their spending and gift giving than many North Americans are.

#3. There is an Extra Christmas Holiday

Or more specifically St Nicholas Day (the famous saint on who Santa Claus is based)  and he comes very early – on December 6th and he may even make house calls in person!  When J.P. (my German husband) was very young he remembered St. Nicholas knocking on the door, then reading from his “Naughty or Nice” book, all the “naught and nice” things he had done that year.  He said he was afraid of St. Nicholas, but fortunately always made the “nice” list.  St. Nicholas is not nearly as generous as Christkind though usually only giving candy.

Christkind and Saint Nicholas
Christkind and Santa Clause, but there is a movement to keep Christkind as the gift giver and not the American Santa Claus as depicted in the top photo

#4. Turkeys are Safe in Germany

Many North Americans celebrate Christmas with a nice turkey dinner but you won’t find a turkey dinner in sight at a German Christmas Dinner.  A roast goose is the traditional  dish served along with some red cabbage, although wild boar may also be served in place of the roast goose.

#5.  There’s No (gasp) Snacking Nor Junk Food

Germans are not big snackers to begin with nor junk food eaters – generally speaking.  Not to worry though, you definitely won’t go hungry.  You will likely have three filling meals and coffee and cake in the afternoon. I feel this is worth mentioning since there will likely be no soda or chips in the house.  If you do watch a Christmas movie you will likely be watching it – not snacking away endlessly while doing it.  For the first time in many years I didn’t walk away bloated feeling like I had gained 5 pounds, so perhaps this should be the 6th thing to know about Christmas in Germany.

What else can you add?

Comments

  1. inka says

    Forgive for making a tiny correction: who comes on the 6th of December is not the Weihnachtsmann but Nikolaus. Weihnachtsmann and Christkind do the gift giving together on the evening of the 24th.
    It's so interesting to read about your take on our Christmas. As for the snacking: true, no junkfood, but all these spekulatius, lebkuchen and marzipan..my they do have their colories too.

  2. Expat in Germany says

    @inka – Thanks so much for the correction, I have now made it, and appreciate your keen eyes. Oops.

    Oh yes, the German treats are fantastic but at least their tasty calories and not just empty calories that we tend to consume in North America.

  3. Cathy Sweeney says

    Such interesting things to know about Christmas in Germany! About the 5th fact, that really is quite a difference. I've been consuming huge quantities of goodies for about two weeks now. Must stop soon….

  4. Expat in Germany says

    @Cathy – German food is already pretty heavy and they love their carbs (breads, cakes, etc.) so if they ate junk food as well, they would have a large problem so to speak :)

  5. Andrea says

    Interesting facts! I'm not German, but we always opened presents on Christmas Eve when I was growing up and never ate turkey for Christmas either.

  6. Expat in Germany says

    @Jools – LOL! But they do compensate with high quality home made goodies – at the appointed time :)

    @Andrea – You would fit right in with the Germans :)

  7. Lorna - the roamantics says

    fun read and i hadn't heard any of it before. we always opened presents christmas eve too. it felt really magical to do that and it was smart for our family too as they didn't have to wake up at 5am to us begging them to get up!

  8. Anonymous says

    Awesome. Now, I can only hope you didn't have to deal with the same same Boxing Day shopping hoopla we did in North America!

  9. Expat in Germany says

    @Lorna – You were so lucky, I thought I would die waiting until 10:00 am to open presents!
    @Robin – thanks for the confirmation!
    @Amy – thanks, Santa is becoming more popular but is facing strong opposition
    @Anonymous – Everything is closed in Germany on Boxing Day, but the stores are very busy from Dec 27 through to New Years

  10. says

    I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s take on this, but as far as I know, Christkind is a Southern German thing. I only know it from books, I grew up in Hamburg with a Weihnachtsmann (actually I grew up all enlightened because my older sisters already didn’t believe in the Weihnachtsmann anymore when I was at the age for it…).

  11. kerry says

    Im so glad to be German! even tho i grew up in USA, we still Do our German traditions! And we love german food and spending time with are family and close friends on Christmas! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas next week! 2012!! :)

  12. Sylvia says

    Hi, don’t agree about the Santa Clause story, I grew up with Santa Claus in Eastern Germany (GDR), Christkind is very old fashioned, my grandma used to talk about it, but we didnt grow up with it. Santa Claus came Christmas Eve… just wanted to share…

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