Did you know about these interesting German Christmas traditions?
In some Catholic regions of Germany, the bearer of gifts isn’t Santa Claus, but St. Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas). On the nights of either 5 or 6 December (depending on the region) a man dressed as St. Nicholas (carrying a staff and wearing clothes that resemble a bishop) brings small gifts to all the children of the community. He is usually accompanied by some scary, ragged looking ‘Krampusse’ who, weirdly enough, try to scare the children. St. Nicholas has brought gifts on 6 December since 1555.
For a long period, the birth of Christ was actually celebrated on 6 January (today’s Epiphany) in Germany. To this day, some German households write the initials C+M+B – which some believe are the initials of the three kings, while others believe it stands for the Latin phrase “Christ bless this house” (“Christus mansionem benedicat”) – with chalk on their doorposts on or before 6 January as a symbol of protection over their houses. In many regions, the Christmas celebration continues until this date.
Last but not least, and you probably knew about this one, but Christmas markets are a big tradition in Germany. And it’s, in our opinion, one of the most fun traditions! Usually starting in mid or late November, in almost every German city you will be able to find at least one Christmas market – whether it’s on the local square or in the streets. German Christmas markets just seem to be able to warm up the heart, soul, and body all at once. Apart from the warm atmosphere, you can find delicious warm drinks, roasted chestnuts, and local crafts, among other good stuff.
These markets date back to the Late Middle Ages (when they were probably not called “Christmas markets” but simply “winter markets”) when their purpose was to offer people a chance to come together, stock up on food like special seasonal baked goods and meats for the long, cold winter that lay ahead, and to buy handicrafts like wood carvings and toys.