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From the birthplace of the Christmas Tree, we bring you German Christmas Food ideas to brighten the holidays with tradition, festivity, and heritage.
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Traditional German Christmas Food
It’s said, “The first taste of Christmas arrives when Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Spekulatius (gingery biscuits) suddenly appear on the supermarket shelves at the beginning of September.”
If you would love to add German Christmas elements to your holidays, we’ve gathered not only some deliciously authentic German recipes to add to your Christmas celebrations, but given you a flavor of German Christmas traditions.
How Germans Celebrate Christmas
“Germany celebrates Christmas with two public holidays, 25 and 26 December. For many people, 24 December, Christmas Eve, is divided into a hectic morning and a festive evening.
When Christmas Eve falls on a working day, the shops are open until noon and they are very busy as people buy their last presents or food for the festive meal. Afterward, attention focuses on decorating the Christmas tree with fairy lights and colorful baubles, wrapping up presents and preparing food.”
German Christmas Traditions
While there are many German Christmas traditions, here are a few I particularly love.
The advent calendar can be traced to 19th-century Germany. Protestant families were known to mark the days leading up to Christmas with a chalk line.
It wasn’t until 1851 that the first advent calendar was made using a plain card with a paper backing. On the face were 24 windows that when opened, revealed images of Christmas. The last window generally revealed a Nativity scene on December 24th, Christmas Eve or Heiligabend.
Advent Wreath (Adventskranz):
Many families in Germany create an advent wreath on the 4th Sunday before Christmas consisting of four candles, evergreens, pinecones, and natural materials. A candle is then lit each Sunday evening until the holiday.
Often families will spend a reflective hour together, sing Christmas carols, host children’s musical performances, or watch a family movie together. And very often, hot cocoa, cider, and cookies as served too.
St. Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag):
This is a favorite children’s holiday in Germany.
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th, the day St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in Minor Asia, died. Or in some communities and regions, on the evening of December 5, the eve of his death.
The custom is that a gray-haired man with a flowing beard, dressed as a bishop carrying a staff, knocks on doors and delivers gifts to children. He is accompanied by a “ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly or nor so mildly scares the children.” Depending on the region, these escorts were called by different names: “Belsnickle,” “Niglo,” “Pelznickel,” and others.
Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte):
Dating to the 15th century, historic German city centers light up the December sky with Christmas markets, also known as Weihnachtsmärkte. Vendors from then until now set up displays of local arts and crafts, food, and more.
See the Best Christmas Markets in Germany.
Otherwise known as Tannubaum, the German Christmas tree finds its roots in the 16th century when “Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.”
It’s widely believed that Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to the Christmas tree.
History.com notes that while Martin Luther was walking toward his home one “one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.”
More German Christmas Traditions
German Christmas Cookies
“An assortment of German Christmas cookies at Rischart bakery in Munich. From left: chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons; cinnamon and kirsch star cookies; raspberry jam sandwich cookies; anise seed crescent cookies; chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies; chocolate-dipped hazelnut cookies.”
Kokosmakronen (Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons)
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon and Kirsch Star Cookies)
Spitzbuben (Raspberry Jam Sandwich Cookies)
Vanillekipferl (Anise-Seed Crescent Cookies)
Schokiladen-Butter-plätzchen (Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies)
Nusstaler (Chocolate-Dipped Hazelnut Cookies)