The Local Germany (24 November 2015)
With the first Sunday of Advent almost upon us, The Local looks at how Germany celebrates the festive season – and what to look out for once Advent begins on November 29th.
It may still be a month until the big day, but Germany’s been getting into the Christmas spirit for a good few weeks now.
There’s still plenty more fun to be had, though.
This year, Advent begins on Sunday 29th November – and here’s how to celebrate it in the most German way possible.
1. Listen to…
Das Adventsblasen – “Blasen” is what a wind instrument does when you blow into it. So an Adventsblasen is a sort of… advent wind concert?
Adventsbläsen usually take place either in churches or in open places like Christmas markets – and the idea is to bring Christ down to earth with the music.
The Adventsblasen pictured below is a traditional mix of trumpets, trombones, horns, tubas and other brass and wind instruments, and has been taking place since 1979.
Das Adventsgebäck – Oh, the joy of German compound words.
Adventsgebäck is basically Gebäck (cakes, pastries and biscuits) traditionally eaten during advent.
Seasonal baked goods are a big deal in Germany – last year German producers pumped out 92,640 tons, according to market research firm Nielsen.
Unsurprisingly, Lebkuchen was the most in demand, making up 38 percent of sales – so it’s a good thing Germany started rustling up this year’s batch way back in August.
But Lebkuchen isn’t the only sweet treat making Germans feel all Christmassy during Advent.
Stollen is also an essential part of the German Christmas experience. A bread-shaped cake filled with raisins and spices, if you ration it carefully it can last for weeks.
Der Adventskranz – This is the name for a German Advent wreath.
It’s believed the Adventskranz first appeared in a Hamburg youth shelter in the mid 19th-Century.
Established by Johann Wichern in 1833, the Das Rauhe Haus was – and still is – a lifeline for children and teenagers separated from their parents.
Wichern wanted to show the youngsters the way to Christmas, helping them count the days and visualise its coming.
But while this original wreath had 24 candles, today’s Adventskränze are more likely to have just four – to be lit on the four Sundays of Advent.
der Nikolaustag – On the evening of December 5th, you’ll find many German children leaving out a shoe before they go to bed.
If they’ve been good during the year, they’ll awake on Nikolaustag to find their shoe stuffed with sweets and treats.
But if not, they’ll have to answer to Knecht Ruprecht.
Nikolaus’s terrifying alter-ego, Knecht Ruprecht provides a switch of wood that parents can spank naughty children with – a practice that thankfully died out a long time ago.
It’s not the most festive part of Advent, we’ll admit.
5. Don’t forget…
der Heiligabend – December 25th may be the big day in the UK and USA; but in Germany most of the festivities come a day earlier.
On Heiligabend – or Holy Evening – Germans celebrate the birth of Jesus.
As soon as the sun goes down on December 24th, it’s officially Christmas – with many families exchanging presents, enjoying festive meals and attending church services.
Don’t worry: Christmas Day (called the “Zweiter Weihnachtstag,” or “second Christmas Day”) is still a public holiday across Germany.
But if you ever feel like you really can’t wait until the 25th to get stuck into your presents… well, why not start doing Christmas Eve the German way?
By Hannah Butler