German Christmas Traditions

We may know a lot about traditional British and American Christmas but what about German Christmas traditions? It turns out a lot of German Christmas traditions have shaped the traditions all over the world. Here’s a look into German Christmas traditions.

Brief History of Christmas in Germany

Like most of northern Europe before Christians embraced the holiday, Germany participated in the pagan rituals of Yuletide. A good example of this can be seen in how they were the first to use Christmas trees once Christianity became widespread.

Germans were the first to use Christmas trees in the late middle ages. Traditionally the mother of the family would decorate the tree. It would then be brought into the house on Christmas Eve.

Advent has always been a big part of the Christmas lead up in Germany. From 1833 the practice of lighting an advent wreath to help children count down the days until Christmas.

Traditional Christmas tree
Traditional Christmas tree

List of German Christmas Traditions

Advent Calendar (Adventskalendar)

Although many countries follow advent, due to the spread of Christianity. It is a popular tradition across Germany. Advent being the counting down of the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas day. The last day of advent – Christmas Eve- starts their Christmas season where they will decorate and put up the tree.

Advent wreath (Adventskranz)

In the 16th century German Lutherans started the tradition of making Advent wreaths. The wreath holds 4 candles on top of a wreath of pine cones, winter berries, flowers, and other ornaments. Each family has their own traditions with the Advent wreath. Often each of the 4 candles are burned on the Sundays before Christmas.

Advent Wreath
Photo by Sandra Grünewald on Unsplash

Krampus night (Krampus Nacht)

Part of German Christmas tradition, Krampus night falls on the 5 December. The tale of Krampus is that it is a half-goat half-demon beast who comes to punish people who have been naughty. The legend is the antitheses of Saint Nick, who we all know as the jolly present giver. Like Santa is a legend to motivate children to behave German children get the extra nudge from not wanting a visit from Krampus.

St Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag)

6 December marks Saint Nicholas day in the German calendar. On the day children will leave their shoes at the ends of their bed to wake up to small gifts or treats in their shoes the following morning.
To read more on the history of Saint Nicholas day have a look at our post, why do we give gifts at Christmas?

Epiphany and the Sternsinger

Christmas cheer continuing until January 6 which is the feast of epiphany. Sternsinger is a German term meaning ‘star singer.’ On the evening of epiphany, children dress up and go house to house singing, asking for donations for children’s causes. Similar to Irelands Wren boys. Which you can read more about on our post, why is it called boxing day?

Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte)

Now a mainstay in almost all cities in the UK. The Christmas market has it’s roots in Germany. The annual German Christmas Market in Birmingham is organised by the Frankfurt traders association. German traders come over to the UK for the month of December to sell a range of crafts, decorations, gifts, and of course the famous sausage (bratwurst).

Christmas Stollen
Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Christmas Stollen (Christstollen)

Like England’s Christmas cake, Germany has Stollen. It’s a traditional cake made with flour, fruits, nuts and spices. It is a long lasting cake that even has its own festival dedicated to it in Dresden.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

A favourite of ours here at Christmasphere HQ, mulled wine! These steaming hot mugs of sweet red wine is perfect for the cold winter nights. You will find this famous winter drink being sold all over at your local Christmas market. We definitely recommend making your own batch at home when you have guests over.


Another of our favourite’s is Lebkuchen. It’s similar to gingerbread but using honey. It tends to be a little softer than gingerbread. And much like our Christmas gingerbread it can be decorated with icing and having messages written on them.

Fire Tong Punch (Feuerzangenbowle)

Feuerzangenbowle is a German drink popular at Christmas. It combines mulled wine with rum and it is set alight. It was popularised in Germany following a classic movie in 1943 called “Die Feuerzangenbowle”. These days it’s a fun tradition to host a Feuerzangenbowle party with friends to watch the movie and imbibe the drink.

Christmas Trees (der Tannenbaum)

Of course, the tradition of brining a fir tree into the home and decorating it comes from Germany. We’ve mentioned it in How to Celebrate Christmas Victorian Style and What Does The Christmas Tree Represent?

German Christmas market
German Christmas market

German Christmas Facts

  • A study in 2014 saw that on Christmas eve a popular dish to have is potato salad with German sausages. Although some prefer to have goose on the occasion.
  • Some of the world’s favourite festive treats originate from Germany. For example, gingerbread – in all its forms – and marzipan!
  • In Germany, they have a sweet which is made up of gingerbread, jelly and marzipan all layered and then coated in chocolate. This treat is called Dominostein.
Traditional German Dominostein
Traditional German Dominostein
  • In 1692 the first recorded Christmas market was set up in Stuttgart Germany.
  • Carolling is a worldwide tradition at this point, but did you know some of your favourite carols are German? Silent night was originally composed in Germany. The song has been translated from “Stille Nacht” into 200 different languages.
  • Last but not least, it was common practice to hang Christmas trees from the ceiling. This was to save space in homes. If you want to read more about it why not check out our post, what is an upside-down Christmas tree?

That has been a rundown on German Christmas traditions. Many of these traditions should be familiar, but hopefully, you have learnt a little more on the origins of some of the worlds favourite Christmas traditions.

German Christmas Traditions