O Christmas tree O Tannenbaum! Who knew that so many of our most beloved Christmas traditions actually originated from Germany? Yep, the country is famous for being downright magical in the four weeks leading up to December 25. Here, the traditions—large and small—you can incorporate into your own celebrations this year.
7 German Christmas Traditions We Might Just Be Copying This Year
1. They Go All In Decorating The Christmas Tree
That tree you string lights and ornaments up on in your living room year after year? Well, that custom is rooted in German history, having originated in the 17th century when families would deck the actual halls with evergreen branches. That eventually evolved into Christmas trees decorated with bright red apples, gingerbread and silk flowers, then—as modern times now reflect—heirloom ornaments passed down from generation to generation.
2. They Introduced Us To Advent Calendars
The next time you splurge on a cheese advent calendar from Aldi, keep in mind: You have the Germans to thank. What began as plain cards with paper backings, designed to open 24 individual windows, each one revealing a picturesque Christmas scene has grown into an international custom. (Seriously, nowadays, there’s an Advent calendar for every single interest and need.)
3. They Display Christmas Pyramids
Once German folklore, these “towers” of sorts rely on warm air generated by candles to propel a carousel that traditionally features various nativity scenes. In the early days, Christmas pyramids were hung from the ceiling, but now they’re set out on tables as a centerpiece of holiday décor.
4. They Celebrate December 5th *and* The 25th
Before there was Christmas, there was St. Nikolaus Day, an occasion that calls for German children everywhere to polish a single boot and leave it in front of their bedroom doors overnight in hopes of a visit (and presents) from St. Nick himself. Not to be confused with Santa Claus, who visits on Christmas Eve, St. Nikolaus is based on a Greek Christian bishop who was known for miracles and giving gifts secretly. But, much like the custom of Santa, he prioritizes the nice over the naughty. (Misbehaving children wake up with zero gifts.)
5. There’s Also Krampus Night
The alternative to St. Nicholas Night, Krampus Night—which has origins in Bavaria and also takes place on December 5—has men dressed in devilish attire knocking on the doors of family with a goal of frightening kids into good behavior. As creepy as it sounds, it’s all in good fun…and typically ends with everyone at the pub.
6. They Brought Us Mulled Wine
Known as Glühwein, which directly translated means “glow wine,” mulled wine is a German tradition—and one that is served everywhere come Christmastime. The most customary recipe includes red wine that has been spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus and sugar. But it’s been customary since the 15th century, when it was offered in abundance at Christmas markets all over the country.