April 2024
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The Christmas Holidays in Germany

The Christmas Holiday Season In Germany

As the season cools off and the leaves fall (mostly in my yard, it seems), I am already looking forward to Christmas time in Germany. Christmas here is really something special, certainly more than I ever experienced anywhere else I have lived. It’s more than just gifts under the tree and a big Christmas dinner. Germans are really into Christmas and one of the things I think makes Christmas really special in Germany are the traditional Christmas markets and they are in just about every town. Hamburg has at least four just in the downtown area alone. And they are full of people, smells of food and hot drink, music, laughter and all sorts of other things.

Every Christmas the markets set up about four weeks before the big day and one can find lots of speciality items such as Stollen (a cake only available during the Christmas holidays and the best comes from Dresden in the former eastern part of Germany), hand-made wooden toys and decorations, and bread baked right in the marketplace for example. There is even a blacksmith demonstrating how implements were made a hundred years ago. More mundane items are various candies, sugared almonds, Berliners (jelly donuts), scarves, toys, mittens, hats, gosh, there is so much I get confused just thinking about it all. Then come the really good items such as food,…one of my favorite subjects. The season brings a hot wine drink called Glühwein (a combination of red wine, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and other herbs and spices AND if desired, a liberal shot of rum), another speciality is Kartoffelpuffer, thin (if made properly) potato pancakes made of grated potatoes and onions, fried in shallow oil and served piping hot with apple sauce. Kartoffelpuffer are one of my all time favorites and best made by my wife. Just Wonderful!!!! And of course, there is the inevitable selection of Würsten (sausages), crepes of all kinds, and naturally, beer and wine. There are normally some small rides for the younger children and music piped around the market. At one market in Hamburg is a small model train that runs overhead all around the market place. Somehow the atmosphere is really special and I very much enjoy going once or twice during the holidays.

Then, by 3 PM on Christmas Eve, the market is closed, just in time for the people to be home for Saint Nikolas to bring the gifts to the children at sundown. The parents somehow isolate the children from the main room of the house, the tinkling of a bell and voila, the gifts are under the tree. Dinner that evening is usually fish (don’t know why) and then everyone enjoys the evening drinking wine and watching the children hard at play. Christmas day is for relaxing and more play for the kids, walks in the forest and a nice lunch at home. And the 26th is also a holiday which is a big day for restaurants when so many people go out for lunch to be able to give Mom a break. And then, all too quickly, it’s all over and it’s back to work.

New Year’s end (Sylvester) is another big celebration for many. As in the US, hotels and restaurants plan gala evenings but of course, many stay home, if for no other reason, to avoid the drunk drivers and there are always some around. Fireworks are legal during this time of the year and are plentiful….I can’t remember how much the Germans spend every year on fireworks but it’s in the millions of Euros. The noise starts in the afternoon, builds until midnight and goes on into the wee hours of the morning. The city of Hamburg puts on a professional display over the Alster Lake. The 1st of January, of course, is a holiday and then, again, back to work.

But it was fun, wasn’t it?

Tschuss – Ken

4 comments to The Christmas Holidays in Germany

  • Admin

    Great post, Ken!

    Do they do Halloween and Thanksgiving in Germany? Or, some verison of them?

    Can we talk your wife out of the recipe for her Kartoffelpuffer? Sounds yummy! 🙂

    Anyone else want to share “The Season” holiday customs, events, activities, etc. that take place in your area??? Got any recipes for tasty little morsels???

    “Kind Words Go A Long Way”

  • Ken

    Halloween is being pushed by the retailers but it is not a traditional event in Germany. I think in the past four years we’ve had, at the most, only six or so kids Trick or Treat us…Normally I get to eat all of the candy. Thanksgiving is not a holiday here but they do have Saint Martin’s day when people gorge on roast goose, red cabbage and potatoes…Many restaurants feature the meal for two or three weeks during October. It’s more of a reason to eat goose than a real holiday or celebration except, perhaps, in the church, which, of course, I know nothing about. Most holidays in Germany are geared to religious celebrations such as Good Friday and Easter Monday, which results in a four day weekend.
    One of the really nice aspects of working for an American Embassy or Consulate in a foreign country is that we get (I got, back then) both local and American holidays….nice, huh?
    Hugs to all – Ken

  • Admin

    Ken … In many areas of the USA where there is a large German population in the community they typically have October Fest during October each year. Supposedly, the festival originated in Germany and was brought to the USA as people relocated here from Germany over the past 100+ years. In more rural areas (farming communities) it seems to be a type of harvest festival. But, the October Fest also takes place in large cities, such as Chicago and New York. So, my question is: Is October Fest a traditional event in Germany? If so, what is it a celebration of there? What takes place at the event, etc. ?

    Just curious …

    “Kind Words Go A Long Way”

  • Ken

    October Fest (which actually starts in the third week of September – don’t ask me why) is a Bavaria festival that is located in Munich but of course other towns and cities have adopted it as well. It takes place on a huge plaza in Munich and is started by a very colorful parade through the city with horse-drawn wagons and Barvarians in traditional dress. Check it out on Wikipedia. I went once but early in the day as I dislike crowds, but at mid-afternoon, the place already had its share of drunk Deutsche. The festival attracts millions of people who what to spend more than $10 for a full liter of beer and Bavarian beers is not the best. Its something one has to do if one is in Germany at the right time, but to me, its nothing special…just a huge beer bash. Ken

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