Your essential guide for doing Christmas just like a German
Christmas is coming! And it would be very un-German of you to leave the preparations until the last minute.
1. Get baking your Stollen
A traditional German Stollen. Photo: DPA
Stollen is a bread-like cake usually made with some combination of dried fruits, candied citrus rinds, nuts and marzipan. The time to bake stollen is now because, after baking, the loaf gets rolled in butter and then in powdered sugar before being wrapped up and left to ripen for two to three weeks.
2. Find an Advent wreath
A traditional German Advent wreath. Photo: DPA
Advent is already underway, starting last Sunday, but it’s still worth getting your hands on an Adventskranz (advent wreath). Germans mark each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas: on the first Sunday, one candle is burned, on the second, two, and so on.
3. Get ready to open those calendar doors
A 1903 Advent calendar from Munich. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
You should also get an Adventskalender (advent calendar) to mark each day in the lead up to Christmas. These have spread around the world now, but originally came from Germany in the mid-19th century, and first went on sale in the early 1900s. The chocolate ones are a more recent idea.
4. Polish your boots
A little girl sitting on a huge boot in the Stiefelmuseum (boot museum) in Leisnig, Saxony. Photo: DPA
The bigger the better, apparently. December 6th marked St. Nicholas' Day, and hopeful children polished their boots the night before in the hope that St. Nick will visit and fill it with chocolates. It was once that St. Nicholas' Day was the day for giving presents, but Germany has since shifted its gift giving to Christmas time.
5. Visit those Christmas markets
Stuttgart Christmas market in front of the Königsbau building. Photo: DPA
Wrap up warm and get down to your nearest square. Chances are, it has already been transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, smelling of candied nuts and Glühwein. Nothing raises seasonal spirits like a German Christmas market - we spotlight 8 of the most beautiful markets of 2018 here.
6. Order your goose
A goose rather than turkey (which is now more popular in the US and UK) is the traditional German yuletide feast. A rarity saved for the special day, it is worth thinking ahead so you get the best deal for you goose this Christmas.
7. Pick your Tannenbaum
A Christmas tree plantation near Hanover in Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA
It's time to find the Christmas tree as your decoration centrepiece, which you’ll gather around on December 24th. But don't be too eager to decorate it. It’s tradition that the German Christmas tree stays bare until Christmas eve.
8. Learn some German Christmas carols
Silent night (Stille Nacht) and Oh, Christmas Tree (O, Tannenbaum) are both tunes we Anglophones have adopted, but they started out as German songs. So it’s time to pick up a song book and learn some other German classics too like Kling, Glöckchen and Alle Jahre Wieder.
9. Hang a shining star in your window
Christmas stars on sale in the market in Erfurt. Photo: DPA
You'll see these delightful decorations everywhere in the build-up to Christmas, and you need to hang a few in your home to feel properly German. They're called Herrnhuter Sterne in German, or Moravian Stars in English, after the area on the Czech-German border where they come from. Pop along to a Christmas market and choose your colour and shape.
10. Go to an Adventsblasen
A concert in Dessau-Roßlau, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA
If you've had enough of the Christmas carols, then why not head to a festive concert? Adventsblasen are music concerts you'll find in churches and squares, and although they definitely vary in quality, there's little more rousing than big brass band.