German Advent word of the day: Das Krippenspiel

If you want to experience this Christmas tradition in Germany, you might have to wait until December 24th.

German Advent word of the day: Das Krippenspiel
A Krippenspiel performed at a church service in Sachsen. Photo: DPA

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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German Christmas market closures ‘can’t be ruled out’: health expert

As Germany battles a fierce Covid wave, concerns are growing over events, with one health expert saying closures of the country's beloved Christmas markets can't be ruled out.

Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th.
Revellers enjoy mulled wine at the 'Santa Pauli' Christmas market in Hamburg on November 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

Martina Wenker, president of the Lower Saxony Medical Association, said she believed Christmas markets may have to be cancelled if the Covid-19 situation gets worse in Germany. 

“Depending on the regional incidence situation, closures should not be ruled out in extreme cases,” Wenker told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

“We can’t stand by and celebrate while next door in the hospitals, planned operations have to be postponed frequently, corona patients are dying, and staff in practices and clinics are at their limits.”

Wenker said regional leaders allowed the opening of Christmas markets on the basis that the Covid situation was moderate.

“But if we reach higher levels of escalation, we will have to consider whether Christmas markets are still justifiable,” she said.

Germany on Tuesday reported 32,048 Covid infections within 24 hours and 265 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence increased to 312.4 Covid cases per 100,000 residents. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence tops 300 for first time

‘Maximum safety’

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said on Monday that he wanted to ensure there was “maximum safety” around Christmas markets.

He said it will be among the topics discussed at the Covid crisis talks between the federal government and state leaders this Thursday. 

In general, Söder said mask requirements should remain at Christmas markets as well as distance rules and other protection measures. 

In an interview with broadcaster Bayern3, Söder explained that so far there is no legal framework for Bavaria to cancel Christmas markets. “At the moment, we cannot legally order it,” he said.

Some Christmas markets, which have recently opened to the public, are already enforcing strict rules such as excluding the unvaccinated from entry, or not serving alcohol to people unless they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid. 



Christmas market – (der) Weihnachtsmarkt

Celebrate – feiern

Planned operations/procedures – geplante Eingriffe 

Postponed – verschoben

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.