Christmas Traditions You Didn’t Know Were German

Advent Calendar Christmas Traditions

Written by Rachel Gyarmati

There’s just something magical about carrying out the traditions of Christmas. Whether the tradition is something unique to your family like making green chocolate chip cookies, or more common like wearing matching pajamas, we spend a whole year looking forward to them and years after looking at the pictures.

Some of the most internationally celebrated holiday traditions we all love come from Germany. The land of Bier, festivals and sauerkraut is also the land of the Christmas tree, advent calendar and Christmas market.

The origins of these beloved traditions are whimsical and heartwarming. Keep reading to find out how some of the best Christmas traditions came to be. While you’re at it, stop in to Our Haus for a plate of schnitzel and some holiday cheer.

Advent Calendars

The chances are that if you grew up celebrating Christmas, you experienced the advent calendar. It truly is a sweet way to count down to Christmas. Each small compartment of the calendar will usually contain some small treat like candy or a figurine.

This charming tradition came to life in 1908 when the Reichhold & Lang Printing Company in Munich started releasing them. The idea came from one of the company namesakes, Gerhard Lang. When he was a boy, Gerhard’s mother began the practice of taping 24 small candies to their calendar to count down to Christmas. When Lang grew up and was in charge at Reichhold & Lang, he printed the first Advent cardboard calendar with 24 little pictures. A few years later, the company printed the first calendar with the little doors that everyone loves to open.

Over a century later, the advent calendar has become a Christmas staple for families all over the world. The most common versions are cardboard and come with chocolate in each compartment.

In the last 50 years, companies have brought their advent calendars to the next level. Some noteworthy calendars include wine and cheese, toys, and video games.

Christmas Markets

Open Air Christmas Market in GermanyOpen-air markets and cold weather are not a common combination. However, it has stood the test of time in Germany-speaking Europe with a history stemming from the Middle Ages. The signature string lights of each market give it a warm glow that represents the energy inside.

There is a whimsical atmosphere that makes them a must-do during the holiday shopping season. Several factors go into setting the scene for an authentic market experience; those factors are seen in Christmas markets worldwide.

Shopping Fuel

The food served in Christmas markets is meant to warm shoppers from the inside out, and one can only imagine how good they smell.

The most traditional dishes and options are:

  • Roasted chestnuts
  • Hot sausages
  • Hot spiced wine
  • Bock bier
  • Hot cider

It’s for the Kids

Kids won’t be impressed by roasted chestnuts and great vendors alone. However, most markets will be sure to win over some of the most demanding customers with activities they’ll love.

  • Pony rides
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Puppet shows
  • Meeting St. Nicholas

No matter where you are in the world, from late November to a few days before Christmas, if you find yourself in a traditional Christmas market, you’ll remember that it’s a tradition that began back in Germany.

O Tannenbaum

The Christmas tree, or Tannenbaum, is one of the biggest offerings from Germany to modern international culture. Of course, we like to think that the Hofbräuhaus is pretty high on that list, too, but we digress.

There are two main origin stories for Tannenbaum. The most popular of these two stories give credit to Martin Luther.

The story goes that one cold December night, Luther was walking in the forest and saw starlight peeking through fir trees. This site was so beautiful that he was determined to show his family and let them experience it for themselves.

Luther cut down a fir tree and brought it into his home. Then, to demonstrate starlight, he took candles and put them in the tree. Fellow Germans were inspired by this beautiful display and repeated it in their own homes.

The second, and probably most factual, is that Tannenbaum combines 16th Century traditions.

The Paradise Tree: A fir tree decorated with apples; represents the Tree of Life.

The Christmas Light: A frame decorated with glass balls, tinsel and star on top. The star represents the Nativity star.

This blogger’s personal favorite origin story is Martin Luther’s. It speaks to the heart of Germanic culture, which is one of inclusion. Luther included his family in something special to him. That one night of sharing has led to international celebration and inclusion.  And perhaps, the greatest Christmas tradition of them all.

Smiling Boy enjoying Holiday fun at Hofbräuhaus

We Love Christmas at Our Haus!

Our Bier this month is the Weihnachtsbier, a Märzen (5.5% alcohol by volume). The spiciness in the finish will warm you up from the inside out. That alone makes it perfect for decking the halls and spreading cheer.

Speaking of spreading cheer, if you still need a gift for someone special, consider giving them a great time with a Hofbräuhaus gift card. Or, start a tradition of your own this year by sending a t-shirt or other gift shop merchandise to out-of-town loved ones. And, a membership in our 1589 Growler Club is the gift that keeps giving the whole year!

We wish you and yours the very best this holiday season. May your plate and heart be full of love and cheer this Christmas. To our staff, thank you for your dedication, joy, and effort.

See you in 2022!