Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home for Christmas

I was supposed to help my mother decorate the Christmas tree, but I sneaked away to tell you something about the Christmas tradition in Germany (version: how I know it).

Unlike in North America, in Germany Christmas is not celebrated on Dec. 25th, but on the evening of Dec. 24th. The German word 'Weihnacht' is better translated as 'Holy Night'. The official holidays though are the two following days.
(Figure: My mum decorating the Christmas tree. She's complaining they don't sell any longer tinsel made of tin or lead, but only aluminium which is too lightweight to hang properly. Originally, tinsel was made of silver.)

The maximal disaster is when the Holy Night falls on a Sunday, which means you are stuck with your family over the weekend and two more days during which shops are closed, restaurants are overbooked, and there is an endless amount of bad movies on TV (like usually all parts of 'Gone with the Wind' and the like). On the other hand, this means you might actually read the books you found under the tree about Feng Shui for your new apartment or something.

On the 24th, families often attend mass in the afternoon. Even those who usually don't, because it's kind of fun to see the children act the Christmas story. There, you meet all the neighbors and people you know from around town (who will inevitably tell you how you almost burned down the church when you were 6, or do you remember how you painted the school yard in 19-eighty something?)

Back from church, parents will have to occupy the children until 6pm. Presents are not brought by Santa Claus, but by the Christkind (see Lubos' nice post) and are put under the tree. I have no idea why, but for most people I know the Christkind comes at 6pm straight, and before this, grandparents are supposed to read stories, or children have to play Christmas songs on the piano (the only thing I can still play on a piano are these stupid Christmas songs that I had to practice from Easter on or something).

There is no real traditional dinner for Holy Night. My mum says, this year we'll have fondue. For lunch on Dec. 25th it's pretty common to have duck with red cabbage and dumplings.



  1. Liebe Bee,

    "Frohe Weihnachten und ein gesundes, erfolgreiches neues Jahr"
    I wish you from my 2nd home where x-mass evening is comming 8 hrs sooner than in good ol' Europe.

    I am always thrilled to read your blog- be it on physics,, where I try to follow as good as I can,,,
    or be it your Snick-Schnack which I find always entertaining and relevant.

    Thank you 4 "bee"ing around :-)

    Best wishes to all..


  2. Lieber Klaus,

    Thanks so much! You too have a wonderful Christmas :-)


  3. Klaus, Bist du ein Santa Klaus?

  4. Your mum made you a nice and pretty typical German xmas dinner with the fondue. The other possibility would have to be raclette, but some people have that on Sylvester (NYE). I personally favour raclette over fondue.

    And the reason the Christkind comes after 6 pm is that centuries ago the day actually started with sunset, not either the arbitrary middle of the night or sunrise. So, evening of 24 Dec actually is the same day as morning of 25 Dec...

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    you won't believe it but we've discussed the Fondue/Raclette issue almost the whole Christmas holiday. Now you have to specify what kind of Raclette you have in mind: The classic Swiss one with the cheese-wheel, or the family friendly one with the small pans?




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