Fröhliche Weihnachten: How German Christmas Celebrations Have Changed Over Time
Christmas in Germany is known around the world for beautiful decorations, dazzling lights displays, and gorgeous snow-capped buildings. However, behind the stunning displays lie intricate and often scary legends, traditions, and Christmas figures. Many of these traditions have evolved over time to become what we see today.
German celebrations have spread the world over, and most of our familiar traditions originated in the European country. One of the most famous of these is the Advent calendar, a calendar whose doors or drawers hide small treats, poems, or toys. One door is opened each day of December, with the final one being opened on Christmas Eve. Christmas markets are also held during the four weeks of advent and include brightly-lit stalls selling wreaths, toys, ornaments, and more. Germany is also famous for having unique and delicious holiday foods. Mulled wine, or red wine steeped in spices and citrus, is a classic drink akin to hot cider. Feuerzangenbowle is mulled wine taken to the extreme, where rum is added and the whole drink is set on fire. Stollen is a soft, buttery fruit cake covered in powdered sugar and orange zest. Perhaps the most iconic Christmas tradition is the Christmas tree, another German invention. Evergreen trees became a symbol of the Garden of Eden, and apples were hung from their boughs. Over time, candles were also placed on the trees, along with the ornaments and angels we see today.
On the darker side, St. Nick isn’t the only Christmas spirit, and the others aren’t nearly so benevolent. Instead of just getting a lump of coal, poorly behaved children in Germany are visited by Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon entity that punishes them. He is even said to take or eat the worst children. On December 5th, St. Nick and Krampus come to homes to either reward or punish children based on their behavior. Krampus was originally a pagan figure of the winter solstice, but with the rise of Christianity, Krampus became associated with Christmas. Despite authority figures in the Catholic Church banning his image, Krampus’s popularity rose. Now, Krampus is still a big part of Christmas festivals in Germany, and even has a few movies of his own.
Though many of the original Christmas traditions have faded away, most of them have changed or remained popular to this day, especially in Germany. Beautiful sights, wonderful food, and haunting legends define Christmas in this European country.