What are the holiday traditions in Germany?

“What are the holiday traditions in Germany?” is a question that many people ask themselves before visiting this country.

In fact, it’s often one of the first things they look up on Google when preparing for their trip.

  • But what if you were already living there, or just moved here?
  • What would you be looking for?

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite German Christmas traditions to help answer those questions and make your winter holiday season even more enjoyable.

Public German Holidays in 2021

January 6thEpiphany or Twelfth Night/King’s Day (depending on the region)
Easter Sunday and Mondayincluding Kol Nidre prayer service on Saturday evening before Yom Kippur begins in the Jewish calendar
May 1stLabor Day or International Workers’ Day.
August 15tha national holiday in Germany which commemorates the reunification of Germany after World War II, or for some: the end of WWII
September (weekend nearest to first Sunday), usually toward the end of the month.Harvest Festival
October 3rd and 4thGerman Unity Day
November 11tha national holiday to commemorate the end of World War I, or for some: Armistice Day
December 6thSt Nicholas’ Eve (or Weinachtsdienstag)
December 24th-25thChristmas Eve and Christmas Day
December 31stNew Year’s Eve

1) Decorating:

Christmas Decoration Germany

If you’re planning on spending Christmas in Germany, then the chances are good that there will be plenty of decorations around town!

Even if it’s not yet December, most stores have festive displays already (and they start early).

If you’re looking for a Christmas market, we can recommend the one in Düsseldorf, located at the famous “Rheinturm” (Rhine Tower).

It boasts more than 200 stalls and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

2) Candlelight Services:

If you like attending church, then you can count on at least one candle-lit Christmas service in your area!

The atmosphere is always incredible and makes it easy to get into the holiday spirit.

3) Advent Calendars:

German Christmas calendars are a tradition that many families with young children look forward to every year.

Some of the most popular series include “Die Weinbergschnecke” (The Vineyard Snail), “Der Nikolaus” (Saint Nicholas), and “Die 7 Raben” (The 7 Crows).

4) Advent Wreaths:

Another Christmas tradition in Germany that can be traced back to the early days of Christianity is the advent wreath.

This decoration usually consists of 4 candles, one for each Sunday of Advent, and is a reminder of the upcoming seasonal celebrations.

5) Christmas Markets:

Christmas Markets Germany

One of the most iconic images associated with Germany during December is its many Christmas markets!

For centuries there has been a place for Germans to gather together and celebrate the holidays in style.

The best part about Christmas markets? They’re open for business throughout the entire month of December!

6) Christmas Dinner:

While many Americans are used to eating dinner at noon, Germans typically have theirs a bit later.

The most common time is between 4 and 6 pm, but some families still prefer 8 or 10 pm.

However, there are no chopsticks during festive occasions like Christmas dinner – it’s all about the fork!

7) Christmas Carols:

With a name like “Advent,” you know that it’s all about getting ready for Christmas!

That means spending more time in church, caroling, and listening to holiday music.

In fact, we recommend doing this every day from December 1st until Christmas Eve (it will get you in the mood for December 24th)!

8) Christmas Eve:

Germans love to gather together on Christmas Eve!

It is a great day to visit family and friends, even if it means traveling far from your hometown.

In fact, we recommend making this trip as often as possible throughout the first week of Advent (which is when most German schools are off for the holidays).

It’s a tradition in Germany to give small gifts (such as chocolate or candy) on Christmas Eve, and you can also expect a big dinner!

9) Christmas Tree:

Christmas Tree Germany

Having a Christmas tree is essential for any German household throughout the holiday season.

In fact, it should go up at the beginning of Advent so that it doesn’t feel too much like December 24th when you finally get around to using it.

10) Christmas Mass:

For Christians, Christmas Eve is all about attending midnight mass (or “Heiligabendmesse”).

In Germany, this typically begins at 11 pm to have plenty of time to travel afterward. 10 pm is also a standard starting time.

Mass is usually attended by friends, family members, and even guests from outside of the community.

If you want to attend one of these events, we recommend doing some research with your closest parish before November to be prepared!

11) Christmas Day:

German children wait all year for the day when their parents finally give them gifts.

In fact, the excitement begins as early as December 6th!

For a German Christmas celebration to be authentic, you must include presents for everyone in the family (including your pets).

It is also when most Germans open their advent calendars!

12) Christmas Concert:

Many churches also have special concerts during December that are free for everyone in the community to attend.

They provide a great way to get in the holiday mood, and they’re also a lot of fun for kids.

Some of these concerts even have refreshments so that you can enjoy them with your friends and family!

13) Joulupukki:

Another Christmas tradition that many people look forward to is seeing Joulupukki.

This is the Finnish name for Saint Nicholas, who comes to Germany during December to spread holiday cheer.

He has a long white beard and wears red robes, and he carries around a bag full of presents for children (instead of coal or bread).

He arrives in his sleigh on December 6th and leaves on December 23rd.

14) Stollen:

Germans love their stollen!

This is a type of bread that is usually consumed during the Christmas season.

It sometimes becomes available for purchase in November, but the best quality can be found during December.

15) “Little Christmas” is a tradition that’s unique to Berlin!

On December 24th, the lights go up, and everything gets all decorated – it’s impossible not to feel like you’re experiencing Christmas!

This is followed by a big parade with lots of floats.

Do they celebrate Christmas in Germany?

Germany has a variety of customs that they follow during the holidays. They do celebrate Christmas and give out presents on December 25th. They also exchange gifts on April 20th for Walpurgis Night. On January 6th, they celebrate Krampusnacht. 
In some regions, people celebrate Three Kings Day by eating a cake shaped like a trinity. 
On Saint Nicholas Day, people make crepes with sausages and chocolate sauce.

Do people celebrate Easter in Germany?

Yes, they do! They give out chocolate eggs at Easter and have an Easter egg hunt. They commemorate Pentecost by decorating a bush with ribbons, fruits, and flowers. On Edda’s Day (also called Mother’s Day), children give their mothers small gifts. German people often celebrate their birthdays by eating cake and ice cream with the family.

What is the Christmas Tree tradition in Germany?

The tree itself comes from the German custom of bringing evergreens into homes at the winter solstice. They decorated them with apples to symbolize fertility and other fruits for abundance or bread, nuts, and honey cakes as signs of sustenance. The tree became a secular symbol of Christmas in the 19th century; by the beginning of the 20th century, it had become customary to put all kinds of presents underneath.

Holiday food

The German Christmas dinner often includes goose or ham with sauerkraut, red cabbage, and potatoes dumplings along with dried fruits and nuts to represent the treasures found in the Christmas stocking. They serve ham or goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings for lunch on December 24th. And then they have a big feast on December 25th, when most of their family members come home for Christmas!

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