German Christmas: Weihnachten!
By: Erin Burnett
Take a few minutes with me to explore Christmas in a country that really knows how to celebrate! As an American, I have been lucky enough to study German for a few years. Although I still have trouble speaking the language, I am completely fascinated by the culture! There is a strong sense of tradition and family. As I can only imagine, Christmas in Germany must be as captivating as its people and customs!
One of the things I have learned, is that German people like to celebrate! They make merry with style, and Christmas is no exception! To keep up with the revelry, it is a good idea to have an advent calender to count the days. Compared to many other countries, the festivities start nearly a month early! On the eve of December 6, St. Nicholas makes his rounds carrying a list of all the children. According to legend, he leaves gifts for the good little kids, and coal for the naughty ones!
The Tannenbaum is a very good way to uphold German tradition! Brought to life in the Folk Tale "The Christmas Fairy of Strasburg", a Christmas Tree represents many ideas and beliefs! Whatever its true origin, this evergreen certainly demanded special attention in the dead of winter after most leaves in Europe had turned brown and withered. In this seemingly everlasting glory, the tree spent several hundred years traveling through Europe. Prince Albert, who was German, made the tree famous in England when he married Queen Victoria, and eventually the idea traveled around the world. Although it has changed somewhat through history, shedding it's dangerous open-flame candles in favor of safer electric lights, the Tannenbaum still represents Christmas in a most German way!
Gingerbread figures are another great tradition from Deutschland! We find examples of the famed Gingerbread House in a well-known German folk story- Hansel and Gretel. As a charming Christmas treat, the famed construction cookie has survived many years in the form of Gingerbread people and their tasty homes!
In the joyous merriment, who could forget the enchanting carols? Germans celebrate the simple genius of their evergreen decoration in "O Tannenbaum", which many of us know as "O Christmas Tree". The spirit of Christmas is also carried through the ages one of the most translated Christmas songs in the world! Austrians Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr created a masterpiece in their native German language, and "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht" (otherwise known as "Silent Night"!) became another steadfast Christmas tradition.
Germany is one of several countries that celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, which is the night before Christmas. Santa must schedule his trips to visit those countries first....
It seems that Germans are an exceptional people in holding to their time honored celebrations, but they also include new ideas from other countries to make the most of the holidays! My hope for the future is a world that respects and honors everyone's beliefs and traditions. We have a great beginning with our acceptance of each other's Christmas traditions! Maybe someday all the world's cultures will be able to join hands and sing "Stille Nacht" in a spectacular choir of all the different languages!
Recipe for Gingerbread.