German Advent word of the day: Das Krippenspiel

German Advent word of the day: Das Krippenspiel
A Krippenspiel performed at a church service in Sachsen. Photo: DPA
If you want to experience this Christmas tradition in Germany, you might have to wait until December 24th.

What does it mean? 

Das Krippenspiel refers to the “nativity play,” a tradition that commonly takes place during church services on Christmas Eve or early morning on Christmas Day in Germany. Children often act out the nativity play and will often sing holiday carols as well, though adults can also take part. 

In fact, there is often a special service for the children’s pageant on Christmas Eve called Die Weihnachtsgeschichte, literally “the Christmas story.” 

Some primary schools might also put on these plays, and they are often part of Christmas markets as well.

Where does it come from? 

Die Krippe means “crib” and Das Spiel means “play.”

Other words to describe a nativity scene are Die Geburtsszene or Die Weihnactskrippe

These pageants began in the Middle Ages in Europe, with records of such representations of the nativity dating back to the 10th century. 

How is it used? 

Children perform at a Krippenspiel in Niedersachsen. Photo: DPA.

If you have the opportunity to see a Krippenspiel in Germany, at a market or in a church, here are some good words and phrases to know: 

Die Heilige Familie (The Holy Family): Maria, Josef, und das Jesuskind (Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus) 

Die Tiere (The Animals): Der Ochs, Der Esel, Das Schaf (the ox, the donkey, the sheep) 

Die Engel: the angel 

Die Hirte: the shepherd 

Die heiligen Drei Könige: the holy three kings 

Der Stern von Bethlehem: the star of Bethlehem 

Example Sentences: 

Christian, bitte übe, die Lieder für das Krippenspiel zu singen.

Christian, please practice singing the songs for the nativity play. 

Jedes Jahr spielt meine Familie ein Krippenspiel. 

Every year my family performs a nativity play.


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