*Set the mood right by listening to this playlist

Christmas in Germany is quite simply put, magical. But don’t take my words for it and take a few days to explore one of the cities in Germany during Christmas time. I would argue that it is an experience you should have at least once in your life.

But let’s dive into it. Christmas is taken very seriously here in Germany, with celebrations starting as soon as the calendar hits 1st of December. This month is a great time for everyone, Germans, expats and tourists alike. Allow us to tap into how Germans really celebrate Christmas, what is going on during the advent season, why Christmas markets are maybe the “universal Christmas experience” and perhaps a recipe for Gluhwein.

How is Christmas celebrated in Germany 

Some may argue that the Christmas celebrations start as early as the beginning of the month (or the start of the first Christmas market😉), with the Adventszeit, the advent season. But what does this mean exactly? The advent season marks the 4 Sundays in December. Traditionally, every German household has an arrangement with 4 candles symbolizing the 4 Sundays. On each Sunday, one more of the candles gets lit until all 4 are giving light on Christmas day.

For children, the advent season means a sweet countdown to Christmas day in the form of an advent calendar. The traditional ones can be made of wood and cardboard and will range in complexity of designs and drawings. Most of them come with 24 different doors, behind which you can find Christmassy images, figurines, or treats. Nowadays a lot of chocolate brands will come with their own variation each year. But advent calendars are no longer designed just for children, with various brand launching different options for adults as well, like jewellery, cosmetics, beer etc. More fun for everyone!

During these 24 days, Germans enjoy a few other traditions like putting up nutcrackers made of wood, lighting up Christmas pyramids, decorate the Christmas tree and eat Plätzchen and Stollen.

Before the Christmas celebrations go in full swing there is St. Nicholas on the 6th of December, when traditionally children will expect to find some sort of treat in the boots the left by the fireplace or by the door the night before. On the same evening before you can also expect to see representations of Krampus, the counterpart of St. Nicholas, that punishes the naughty children in German folklore.

But let’s get back to the most important holiday of the month.  Christmas in Germany is a 3-day celebration kicking off on the 24th, Christmas Eve (Heiligabend). On this day people usually work for half of a day, shops are also open until midday as everyone hurries home to begin the celebrations with their friends and/or family. This is one of the reasons you’ll see everyone starting their shopping and preparations pretty early during the month of December.

Most people will have either a real tree either a fake one in their homes, but they will for sure decorate it with beautiful glass ornaments and lights or wooden ornaments and candles, if they are keen on keeping the old ways. Traditionally in Germany presents are brought by the Christkind and not by Santa Claus, who also exists in Germany and is known as the Christmas man.

More rarely now, German families would gather around the tree on Christmas day and sing carols before wishing each other Frohe Weihnachten and unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.

Some families would still attend a religious service on the afternoon of the 24th of December but the majority will enjoy a festive dinner consisting of potato salad, sausage, duck, goose or chicken and/or any other vegan and vegetarian interpretations of traditional recipes.

On the 25th and 26th, Germans have the habit of visiting friends and family and sharing a meal with them as well as exchanging gifts.

Sounds very cheerful, doesn’t it?

Christmas markets in Germany

While I do love attending a Christmas market myself, I must say I am not the person to be participating in a lot of them or spending multiple days attending, as the atmosphere can get overwhelming. But for those of you who feel at their best while sharing a cup of Gluhwein with friends and listening to Christmas classics, you’re in luck. You will find a Christmas market in almost any city in Germany, most often in the city center, right next to a huge Christmas tree. Some of them have themes such as the Child of Christ market (Christkindl markt), angels market (Engelmarkt), the star market (Sternchen Markt) and more.

There is always a debate between which Christmas market is the best or the most beautiful one, but there are some that you’ll see on the list every year without fail:

  • Christkindlesmarkt in Nürnberg (which is also my current favourite🤩);
  • Christkindl Markt in Munich;
  • Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom in Köln;
  • Striezelmarkt in Dresden (the oldest Christmas market in Germany);
  • Weihnachtsmarkt Römerberg in Frankfurt.

Christmas markets usually open in the last week of November and traditionally stay open until the 24th. Recently however, you can find some markets that are open until New Year’s and sometimes even the 6th of January. Winning! More time for you to enjoy the celebratory atmosphere.


Now, while we all love the celebrations and the traditions, it’s important that we remember to share all this joy with those dear to us and why not, maybe also with the new expat colleague that experiences Christmas in Germany for the first time.