There’s no stopping time, five more days to go and its finally Christmas!!!
Aside from turning into a festive paradise because of the glittering and uniquely German Christmas markets, the appearance of the lovable Chocolate Santa Claus all over Germany is something that makes Christmas season here so so special. For me, this is absolutely new so I find it really fascinating. The first time I saw chocolate Santa Claus was last year and I think I have eaten chocolates here in Germany more than I have eaten in my entire life!
In fact, as early as October, most shops are loaded already with this sweet confectionery figure to anticipate the Sankt Nikolaus ( or Nikolaustag ) almost the same festive celebration in the Netherlands for the Sinterklaas. Add the exciting Advenskalendar which also comes with sweet threats along with it, this time of the year in Germany is all about the good kind of sweets!Ask any kid here and they all know Nikolaustag and the joy that comes with it. Every kid’s boots or shoe needed to be stuffed with this little sweet man dressed up in red robe among with other threats such as fruits and toys on Dec.6. Yes, Chocolate Santa Claus is simply a Chocolate, but in alluring figure of Santa Claus.One of the top-selling chocolate brands here in Germany like Lindt, shared their intricate process of how they are making this seasonal chocolate figureand how it stands out from the rest. I was surprised to find out that in Germany alone, they sell approx. 26 million pieces! Globally, they produce about 37 million Chocolate Santas annually. This includes the 10-ounce mini Santa Claus and a one-pound showpiece . Amazing, right!?
To make things extra special this year, I saw that one local shop here named Penny, even sells a limited edition of gay chocolate men, in tribute to LGBT ( Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual and Transgender) solidarity movement. Indeed, there’s a sweet chocolate for every gender!
Christmas without snow here in Germany is possible but Christmas without Santa Claus, is simply unimaginable.It’s a global thing! Turning the symbol of Santa Claus into a sweet piece of lovable figure then its a brilliant idea that becomes a unique tradition.
If you asked me, I love chocolates. All the time. How about you?
From my childhood favorites Toblerone and M&M’s, I think chocolates are also a great gift for any given occasion. I love receiving chocolates, its such a warm token to give to someone special.In Philippines,we never had this type of chocolate in a form of Santa Claus so for me, this is something new. As a child, it is a delight for me to eat an imported chocolate, especially the ones Swiss- made or from the States. The bonbons from Holland are also very good.The quality and taste is really something because of the Kakao content. My grandfather used to grind Kakao, and make it into Kakao balls with coconut and it’s simply delicious.We had real kakao hot drinks not the ones came from a bottle from supermarket. Nowadays, chocolate is not limited to Valentines Day.Everyday, you can buy it from stores whenever you want. It is loved by everyone, regardless of age. Here in Germany, I noticed that Germans love chocolates and are obviously chocoholics. If you see the amount of chocolates sold in shops, then you know exactly what I mean.
I found this interesting graph showing the World standing of countries when it comes to Chocolate consumption.This really give me an idea about chocolate madness.
Yes, in Germany, Beer is considered as a Lebensmittel (or a staple food like Bread ) and not an alcoholic drink because of the Beer Purity Law. But I was surprised to know that Germany is also a nation of chocoholics with annual consumption per capita amounting to 17.4 lbs. To quote an article from The Economist that said Germans spend nine billion Euros every year on chocolate, about the same amount that the Supporting Syria Conference in London in early February tried to raise for humanitarian support.
Come to think of it, Germans roughly spends 31 cents per day or about 2.16 Euros per week or 9 Euros a month on chocolates. But of course, this is something petty compared to the consumption of beer.
The chocolate consumption in Germany is high compared to other nations. With twelve kilograms of chocolate in any form (bars, candy, drinking chocolate etc.), Germany has the highest per-capita consumption in Europe, closely followed by the Switzerland with eleven kilograms. When I broke down the 9-billion figure, however, it really did not amount to that much. Divided by 80 million people, and averaging the price of a 100-gram chocolate bar at 1 euro, that is 112 bars per year. About two bars per week – frankly, most people I know in Germany easily eat that amount, I, myself included.My neighbor always showered my daughter with Kinder eggs and other sweet goodies.Though they love chocolates, the number of Obese person here is less compared to the ones I saw back then in Kuwait.
The chocolate tradition in Germany is very rich. From Santa Claus figures to the amusing Rabbit or Osterhase during Easter says it all.The late 1800s was the golden age of Chocolate production and consumption throughout Europe. Many cities and towns had competing chocolate shops with wonderful window displays filled with intricate, molded solid chocolate figures to entice hungry passersby. By this time, they had perfected the art of molding chocolate by using metal molds. When I am visiting different towns here, I found out that there is always a chocolate confectionery shop that stands in the middle of the main square or in the heart of the town.
Germans have the right and work hard to earn the prestige of making good quality choclates. The Anton Reiche Company began manufacturing the chocolate molds in Dresden, Germany during the 1870’s. They even designed and produced very large “show case” molds upwards of 3 feet tall for chocolate shop windows. Unfortunately, metal chocolate mold production in Europe all but ceased during WWII and was eventually replaced by plastic molds which became the material of choice by the 1960s. The “Chocolate Santa” was inspired by this tradition and it is really a perfect calorie-free gift for someone with a sweet tooth.
If you receive a Chocolate Santa Claus, I am sure it will make your day bright. The same thing goes with giving it away to someone dear to you.
Do you love chocolate Santa Claus? Have you ever tried it?
What are the unique Christmas threats you love?
Thank you for stopping by and enjoying this post.If you have some thoughts, please feel free to share it in the comments.Cheers for the coming holidays!
Ever wonder what makes Christmas or Weihnachten in Germany different from the rest of the world? Every country has its own traditions, but have you ever wondered how Germans celebrate Christmas?
There’s no stopping time now, few more weeks and November is over and here comes the end of 2017. And yes, Christmas is really just around the corner. Snow came early to Germany and winter-feel is definitely in the air. As the fire in the sky continue to pull the days closer to the merriest time of the year, also the darkest time, Christmas or Weihnachtenis heavily anticipated not only here in Germany, but also in the rest of the world. If you are planning to have a white Christmas or visiting Germany in the summer, you can now have the chance to learn about the unique and surprising German Christmas traditions in the Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum located in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a well-preserved medieval town, also here in Bavaria.
It’s almost a decade now that I don’t celebrate Christmas in my home country, the Philippines. Time really flies,and it feels even surreal. I totally missed the way we do it as a family, just like in the old times. It’s quite the norm from where I grew up that once the calendar months ends in-ber, say from September, it signals the start of Christmas frenzy!We start to hear Christmas songs played in the radio, the shops are flooded already with Christmas decorations, and yes, office Christmas parties are planned. The raffles, the never- ending exchange gifts, and yes—the most awaited Christmas bonus! I will never forget the evening mass and “Noche Buena“, the Kris Kringle madness, the jaw-dropping Christmas foods, and the crazy traffic during Christmas shopping! Everything is just so festive!
For the past years, I have seen so many differences in the way that other culture celebrate the most colorful time of the year, and for Catholics, it’s probably the most festive. When I was still living in Kuwait, although it’s a Muslim country, the spirit of Christmas can still be felt, unfortunately only in the confines of private accommodation and flat. At work, we were also granted with a holiday from work during Christmas Day. I even attended the midnight mass once. I noticed that more and more shopping malls have their Christmas decor and it is being talked about. The large number of expats in the Middle East is the reason, why even miles away from home, you can still celebrate Christmas with friends and families. I had my first German Christmas last year here in Bavaria , with full anticipation (since I am very curious). I found many interesting German Christmas traditions that is worthy to document here in my Blog as part of my Expat life.
If you want to know how Germans celebrate Christmas the German way, then you might find this post helpful. So keep on reading and stay with me.
Here I wanna share with you the surprising German traditions for Christmas that I personally love!
Christmas in Germany is beautiful, unique, homey and very warm!
The Advent Wreath or Der Adventskranz
The moment I saw these wreaths and candles, I know that Christmas is near. Back in my home country, I see these decorated wreaths as purely decorational, of course, minus the lighted candles.They are used to adorn the doors, and add to the already overwhelming Christmas decorations together with all the garlands in the walls, stairs etc. Not so here in Germany, because Advent time is important for Germans.
The German Christmas season officially starts at the first Sunday of Advent, roughly 3rd of December. The Advent wreath (or Adventskranz) is adorned with four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The first Advent wreath, which appeared in the mid-19th century, had 4 larger candles and 19 smaller ones. Each day, one additional candle was lit to help the children count the days until Christmas. Today only the four larger candles remain. Many Germans love to decorate their Adventskranz up to their own taste but there are also so many different designs of ready-made ones sold in almost every shop.
Adventskalendar —the sweet way of Christmas countdown.
During Advent season, you will never miss the sight of tons of Adventskalendar , (literally a Calendar with small boxes) almost overwhelming in many designs, colors, and yes, all with yummy goodness chocolates or sweet goodies. This is one of the obvious signs that Christmas is coming. This is a delight for children and the child at heart. In the Adventskalendar, there are 24 “windows” that reveal a picture, poem or even part of a story – often the story of the Nativity – each day through December right up to Christmas Eve when the secret behind the largest window is revealed. Seeing Germans do panic-buying of Adventskalendars especially when they are on Sale is a typical sight as early as 2nd week of November! This is totally German thing!
Vanillekipfelr (Crescent moon cookies)
Weichnachtsplätzchen or German Christmas Cookies
You know it’s the Advent season here in Germany when your nose is filled with heavenly delicious German Christmas cookies. Germans are very into home- made baking. They really appreciate if you made the plätzchen yourself and not store-brought. They are great bakers of cookies and other treats.There are lots of baked treats that will surely keep your mouth-watering. My favorites are vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent cookies) Lebkuchen, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Linzer cookies and Spekulaas as well.Germans love to use lots of almonds, hazelnuts, butter flavored marzipan and cinnamon in baking. Believe me, German cookies are too beautiful and heavily decorated to eat!
Weihnachtsmann Schokolade or Chocolate Santa Claus
Its only here in Germany that Chocolate Santa Claus ( or Weihnachtsmann) floods the shelf of all supermarkets here in Germany. Prior to Christmas, St. Nikolaus is celebrated on the 5th of December and so most Germans get this yummy figures in many sizes. If you have a child, I am sure you will get this one as well.
Christmas Tree or Der Tannenbaum
With over 400 years in history, the Tannenbaum or the Christmas Tree is the real thing in Germany! The German Tannenbaum is usually put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, though some families opt to put up their tree during the Advent season. Please don’t tell anyone, but we already put up our Christmas Tree! Maybe my neighbors are shaking their heads when they see our lighted tree from our windows! I also see my neighbors starts to decorate their windows and garden with white lights. Who doesn’t? For us, Weihnachtsfreude (Christmas Joy) comes early! In Philippines, this is also the norm.
I grew up in adoration of Christmas Tree. Traditionally, I think it’s not complete when we don’t have a tree. Recently, on my research of German inventions, I found out that Christmas trees or Tannenbaum, actually originates here in Germany. I saw the biggest tree that I have ever seen in my life, to top it all— a REAL Evergreen Conifer , decorated with glass baubles, covered in real snow. Although there are lots of varieties for the plastic ones, most Germans still opt to put up the traditional real tree. During Christmas season, almost all town put up a giant tree in the city center adjacent to the place of Christmas market.Decorated with beautiful, handmade balls, and usually adorned with white lights.Compared to the Philippines, here I noticed that they only use white lights instead of colorful, blinking Christmas lights. And NO— they don’t decorate their whole house with lights!It’s also fascinating to know that it was German immigrants who brought the Christmas tree to America.
In Germany, Christmas balls are not just an ordinary tree ornament. Where most of the modern Christmas ornaments and plastic balls nowadays are made in China, USA or Mexico, the origin of these “baubles” or Glaskugeln came from Germany. The old town of Lauscha in German Thuringia is said to be the place of the handmade, glass-blown Christmas bauble.
Below is the photo of the family Weschenfelder work on Christmas balls in their combined living room and work space in the small village of Lauscha.
Christmas Markets or Christkindlmarkt
In Germany, despite the freezing temperatures, almost all towns are converted into one colorful, festive, unique Christmas wonderland during few weeks before Christmas day. Our local Christkindlmarkt is open since November 23 up to Dec. 23. Every place has its own attraction and each one has their own special features that draws attraction to everyone. If you want to have a glimpse of what is Christmas market all about, check this and it will bring you to a winter wonderland!
Today there are over 2,500 Christmas markets across Germany. One of my dream came true when I experience Christkindlmarkt last year. Famous ones are in Nuremberg, Munich and Rothenburg. Most markets are open also on Sundays and draws lots of visitors from neighboring places.This is the best time to see Germany in its most colorful and unique display of celebrating Christmas with the highlights of the Christkindl —the German equivalent for the world-renowned Santa Claus and depicted as an angelic figure with blond hair & wings. It’s really not time of the year without a Christkindlmarkt here in Germany.
St. Nikolaus and the Christkind
Santa Claus originated as a Catholic figure. The Christkind was created by Protestants. Christkind transformed from a suggestion of Baby Jesus into a blonde, female angel. In Nürnberg, each year a teenage girl is chosen to represent the Christkind in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She is known as the Nürnberger Christkind and, much like with Santa, children take pictures with her and tell her what gifts they would like for Christmas. The highlight of each Christmas markets is the German’s famous mulled wine or “Glühwein” or hot spiced wine, the Krippenweg, the beautiful craft stalls, and lots of traditional German Christmas food. There are so many attractions for kids like carousel, trains, carousel and the ice skating rink. One thing worth mentioning is the efficiency of Germans in their way of setting up the whole place into a big arena winter wonderland within weeks or so.
Sankt Nikolaustag ( Dec. 5 or 6)
I grew up believing the magical tale of Santa Claus as someone who is a bearded old man, with a big belly, dressed in red outfit riding the sleigh with sacks of gifts. All the way from the North pole giving gifts to children. But in Philippines, we don’t have snow neither reindeer or chimneys, so this makes me cringe now. For many children, sitting in the lap of Santa Claus while being photographed is one of the most unforgettable time during Christmas. They either scream in anguish or shriek in delight! Here in Germany, there is no such thing as Santa Claus, only the Weichnachtsmann who is a favorite among children during St. Nicholas Day! My daughter will be celebrating her 2nd St. Nicholas in their Kindergarten this year.
In Germany, December 5th is a very special night. Many children put their cleaned boots and shoes outside the front door on the night of 5 December. They believe that St. Nicholas fills the boot with nuts, oranges, gifts and sweets overnight. Sometimes the Nikolaus also visits the children at the Kindergarden or in the school and asks them if they have been good.My daughter already hung her sock in their Kita for the upcoming St. Nicholas. In Holland, as similar to this celebration, Sinterklaas is also a big celebration before Christmas.
Christmas Eve – Heiliger Abend (also Heiligabend)
December 24 is still a regular working day here in Germany. But around 2:00 pm, often even earlier, businesses, and most shops are close in preparation for the holiday celebration, a large part of which occurs on Christmas Eve in Germany. The traditional evening meal includes carp and potato salad, but nowadays it varies from what each family loves to prepare. Families sing Christmas carols together and may read the story of Christ’s birth aloud.This is the counterpart of our traditional “Noche Buena” without the roasted pig, Christmas ham and Queso de Bola ( Cheese ball)! Compared to the Philippines and other countries, I don’t see Christmas Carollers here either that goes from house to house, at least not in our neighborhood.Probably because its hard to sing and be out at night when its freezing cold at night.
Family members exchange gifts and children are typically the focal point of the gift exchange. Here in Germany, opening gifts on Heiliger Abend is the normal way, compared to other countries who opens the gifts on the morning of December 25th.
I grew up attending Midnight Christmas mass or Simbang Gabi. We usually attend evening mass on a 9-day series of mass up to the” Misa de Gallo “or ( Christmas eve mass) . Here in Bavaria, I only went to the mass on Christmas Day, German families – whether Protestant or Catholic and even those who are not regular church-goers – often attend mass or a church service. While the mass traditionally takes place at midnight, in recent times the services have moved into the earlier evening hours. It is terribly cold around midnight or in early morning so the schedule of the mass usually happens around 9 in the morning. The mass is in German and it was a great experience for a first timer like me who listens to Christmas songs in German.
Second day of Christmas ( or St. Stephen Day)
Here in Germany, you have an excuse to sleep in after the big party from Christmas. Yes, Germans and other countries in Europe including the Netherlands have 2 days of Christmas, both are legal and widely celebrated holidays! This is a mellow day, a quiet day to recover from the hustle of everything. Depending on the weather, people are still very active, running, jogging and doing sports during the 2nd day of Christmas. For typical Germans, they spend the second day of Christmas with their families, visiting Grandparents, enjoying seasonal threats and of course–ruhe or enjoying some peace & contemplation.
Also, do you know what else Germans do after Christmas?
Christmas won’t be complete without shopping!
They go shopping to grab the year-end clearance sales and buy everything on a decent price! Yes, Germans are practical, and spend their money wisely! Last year, we got our 7- foot Christmas Tree on sale for half of its original price!And we will be on the lookout once again for great things to buy this year!
How about you, do you also have unique Christmas traditions?
How do you prepare for Christmas for your family?
Sending you some warm cheers for the coming holidays!
Finally, I have made my very first visit and seeing a real German Christmas market–the Christkindlmarkt ! The great thing about being an Expat is exploring things like a tourist and enjoying it like locals do. I am so grateful that my Expat Life had brought me so much new cultures to learn and different stories to share with you. I am sure that you’ve heard about Germany being famous worldwide for its beautiful Christmas markets &meaningful traditions and now I know why…
This year is our first taste of Christmas in Germany and as I finally became a resident here, I wanna share with you my whole experience through Germany’s Weihnachten, after all, it’s my favorite time of the year,the Christmas season.
After almost 8 years of Christmas in Kuwait, where celebrating Christmas is confined into the insides of our flat, this year’s gonna be a whole lot different for me personally. I am seeing lots of new things, and various exciting things as we look forward for this holiday season. Even away from the Netherlands, my daughter is so ready to celebrate Sinterklaas version or the St. NicholasDay (Der Nikolaustag) on Dec. 6. Again, for the first time as well, I have made our own Advent wreaths (Adventkranz) and pine wreaths which I decorated to hang in our doors. It’s so different to have a real wreaths made out of twigs and pines.Traditionally, German families gather around the wreath on each Advent Sunday to light the candle, sing Christmas carols and eat Christmas cookies. For me, I needed to pay extra attention when the candle is lit because I have a frenzy toddler who wants to play with the pines and ehmm..blow the candles.
Last Wednesday, November 23, at 5pm, the Christkindlmarkt in Ingolstadt opened with sparkling lights and putting up the giant 14- meters Christmas tree (Weihnachtsbaum) in front of the Town Hall (Rathausplatz) signalling the start of this year’s Frohe Festtages.The whole city center were transformed into a winter wonderland and I was really amazed by how efficient the local organizers have put up the whole set for the next 31 days. Everything looks like a page in a book of Winter Wonderland. The Christkindlmarkt here in Ingolstadt along with all other Christmarkets all over Germany lights up the city from November 23 up to 23rd of December 2016, some even lasts until 8th of January next year.
I was looking forward to see Ingolstädter Krippenweg. For me, it’s the highlight of celebrating Christmas as well as Filipinos observed the “Simbang Gabi“or the Night Mass observed for 9- nights from Dec. 16-24. I remembered having our Nativity set placed under our Christmas trees. This year, we have our hand- crafted Nativity set from Kenya, a gift from my parents in-law. But here in Germany, they have the city’s Trail of Nativity and there’s a special tour for tourists- the “Kumm,geh ma Kripperl schaugn” for visitors who wants to see the unique ‘cribs’ that can be found here in Bavaria. I have seen 2 of them already and I look forward to see the largest nativity in the Spitalkirche on the next days. Ingolstadt is a home of famous “cribs”as early as 1594.
Stay tuned for my detailed post about the historical cribs in different periods and styles displayed in various places and churches spread in this old Bavarian city and of course, the Polish artist from Opole carving the wood cribs.
As shoppers flocked everyday in the busy city center,the shops along Ludwigstr. adorned their windows with colorful, festive and holiday displays which gives delights to all ages. The whole city is adorned with Christmas decorations . Everywhere I looked, I see decorated wreaths and cafes have become even more cozier with their winter lounges and warm decor. I felt like I am really in a different world. Along the streets, the little ones get crazy with the carousels (Kinderkarussell), trains (Kinder eisenbahn) and the Weihnachts Märchenweg. There are Story telling- booths with statues and moving puppets for famous fairy tale stories like “Der Frösch-Konig”, “Rapunzel“, Hänsel und Gretel”,”Rot-Käppchen”,”Schnee Wittchen” and many more. Such a fun way to engage the little ones!
Outside, I observed that most trees gradually lost their colored leaves, some are already bare, it seems to be getting colder from day-to-day and the hedges starts to freeze. I wonder when will the first snow fall here in Bavaria? Schokonikoläuse and gingerbread have long adorned the shelves of supermarkets, a clear sign, the year is drawing to a close. I can’t believe that 2016 will soon get over…another brand new year to come.
Also I noticed that Germans ( also Bavarians ) celebrates this holiday with style and lots of Uhmm.. sweets and threats, such as the Advenkalendar. While I was doing our grocery shopping, I noticed that there is a huge pile of these colorful boxes, some in edgy shapes, with Christmas stories and designs. The German Advenkalendar madness had begun. Germans surely have a way to spoil themselves ( and little ones!) with lots of chocolates even before the calories add up on Christmas dinners and parties! For the 3 visits we’ve made, my daughter was showered already with lots of Scholonikoläuse, bonbons, and sweets..for this I need to be tolerant. The Weihnachtsman inside the shops are so generous!
In addition to so many sweet and hearty treats, a lot of punch, mulled wine and Feuerzangenbowle, and the aroma of Glühwein (“glow wine”) are served. These drinks will warm you up even before you actually drink this German version of hot mulled wine.Germans really know how to keep the chill away.
Outside the confines of shops, this place is packed with so many great gift ideas in displays.We strolled inside the Christkindlmarkt and found many tempting food stalls. There’s the German rolls and brötchen with sausages and Bratwurst, grilled meats in buns, or with crispy pommes, the Stollen (Fruitcake) and lebkuckens even French crepes!
There are huge stall for decorative glass wares, candles made out of beeswax, toys, arts & crafts, Christmas decor to adorn the Weinachtsbaum (Christmas tree), yummy threats like Ginger breads , Lebkucken,Schaumküsse, and lots of tortes and chocolate bonbons! My favorite was the shop with all the hand painted Christmas balls. They all looked so beautiful!
The city was transformed into a scenic festive place as well the arcades of the old town hall, the Winterlounge opens again . An oasis of peace, where you can relax the day with a mulled wine or punch. This is also a perfect place to socialize and just enjoy a cozy night out with friends.
The fun continues when we saw another special thing about German Christmas market-the Ice Skating rink! The whole area ofParadeplatz were transformed into a beautiful “Eis Arena am Schloss”. Imagine skating in front of the beautiful Neues Schloss ( New Castle), for a true magical Ice skating experience. A 500- square meter ice surface is waiting for all ice skating enthusiasts and the adventurous ones. My toddler can’t keep her eyes from this place but she’s still too young to skate with all the big ones.
Beside the Herzogkasten,the Carraraplatz is transformed into a small handicraft space. On the four adventures, artists and artisans, in Christmas-decorated huts, offer their unique products. I realized that there are so many talented artists here and so many beautiful crafts! There is also the Kulturezeit,special treat for big and small ones. The tent moves from the Schlossinnenhof to the Herzogkasten. Story-tellers, artists and authors invite young and old to join in and listen.
What about you, how’s Christmas celebrated in your place? Have you ever tried Glühwein ?
So much already right? Germans really have a way to make every Weihnachten the best holiday time of the year and as an Expat, I can really say that “It’s not this time of Year without Christkindlmarkt”.
To think it’s only the first week,and I bet there’s more to come. I will share them all in my next posts so stay tuned for more about celebrating Christmas the German way.