Christmas For Members

9 magical ways to give your children the best German Christmas ever

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
9 magical ways to give your children the best German Christmas ever
Santa greets children on November 15th, the opening day of his workshop in Himmelpfort. picture alliance/dpa | Gerald Matzka

From tasty Christmas sweets to make at home to very some unique winter wonderlands to visit, here are nine distinctly German ways to celebrate the holidays with your kids.


Get boots ready for St. Nikolas

In Germany, there’s a gift-giver even more famous than Santa Claus. On the evening of December 5th, kids set out their shoes (traditionally boots) in order to get them filled with sweets and sometimes other small goodies for Nikolaustag on December 6th. Kids polish their footwear to show they've been good, as legend (especially in southern Germany) has it that naughty kids might be paid a visit by Nikolas’ not-so-friendly helper Knecht Ruprecht.

READ ALSO: Why is Nikolaustag celebrated before Christmas in Germany?


Christmas markets

Christmas in Germany is practically synonymous with world-famous Weihnachtsmärkte. Beyond browsing booths - many of which also sell handmade children’s toys and clothes - and looking at lights, kids can sample a variety of sweets or keep warm with the non-alcoholic Glühwein equivalent, Kinderpunsch, or Heißer Kakao. Many larger Christmas markets also feature special areas for kids with mini-train rides or a carousel for the whole family. 

READ ALSO: Seven unmissable German Christmas markets

Make Christmas cookies

From Vanillekipferln (vanilla crescent-shaped sweets) to Lebkuchen there is a long list of traditional German Christmas cookies, or Weihnachtskekse, most easy to make at home with your little ones. Also referred to as ‘Plätzchen’, you can also roll out dough to squeeze into special holiday shapes with cookie cutters (or Ausstechförmchen) sold everywhere, including German supermarkets. If you need to roll out the dough, look for a Nudelholz - which literally means noodle wood but is a rolling pin. 

READ ALSO: 10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter

Send a letter to Santa 

Of course, Santa is real - he even has a workshop in Germany where he answers letters. Known in German as the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man), Santa Claus situates himself every year in the east German village of Himmelpfort (literally ‘gate of heaven’) to answer children’s letters and address their wish lists. With the help of 20 angelic helpers, the holiday team actually sends back responses to those who write to their address of An den Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspostfiliale, 16798 Himmelpfort. Be sure to include a return address, and send your letter by the third Advent (Sunday, December 11th) to get a guaranteed response. 

An employee from the Hildesheim Himmelsthür Christmas post office shows letters to Santa Claus.

An employee from the Hildesheim Himmelsthür Christmas post office shows letters to Santa Claus. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Get (or make) an Adventskalender 

As families around Germany count down to Christmas, it’s a common tradition to turn to this special calendar. Each day, children open a door and receive a little chocolate or other sweets. Many families make their own, but there is no shortage of store-bought ones, even with dog or cat treats in case your fur child also wants in on the fun.

Get a Nutcracker (or watch the play)

Now known worldwide, the wooden Nussknacker figurine is a German invention which dates back to the 13th or 14th century. Keeping them in your home is said to bring good luck, and your kids will get a kick (or crack) out of using them to break apart walnuts. If you’re near the Erzgebirge, you can also pay a visit to Europe’s only Nutcracker Museum. Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker" ballet also enjoys a December-long run in many parts of Germany.  

Go ice skating 

When temperatures dip, Germans can’t get enough of this icy activity. Many of the outdoor rinks are situated right next to Christmas markets and blast holiday tunes, such as a very iconic one next to Berlin’s glowing Neptune Fountain. For the ultimate skating experience, those in southern Germany can check out an outdoor rink with spectacular views of the Heidelberg castle towering above.

Decorate your home

Even before the first day of Advent, many Germans are already decking out their humble abodes with Weihnachtsschmuck, or Christmas decorations. But as electricity prices skyrocket, note that there are many alternatives to lights, such as bright red candles and wreaths. In Germany, it’s also not common practice to decorate the tree until at least the week (and sometimes even night) before Christmas.

Candles decorate a Christmas tree in a living room. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand


Join the Sternsinger on Three Kings’ Day

Known as Epiphany in English, it’s especially common practice in southern Germany to celebrate Tag der Heilige Drei Könige, which falls after Christmas and New Year’s, on January 6th, 2023. If you’re in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg or Bavaria, or one of Germany’s Catholic communities, you’ll see Sternsinger who go door to door, collecting money for charity. If your children are interested in participating, contact your local Catholic congregation, many of whom organise singing groups leading up to the day. 

READ ALSO: Three Kings’ Day: What you should know about Germany’s public holiday in three states



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