There is no better place to enjoy a magical holiday vacation than in Germany. We’ve already covered a more generic list of cities to spend the holidays in Europe, but this country calls for special attention. Germans celebrate the Christmas season extensively with a blaze of lights, color, wonderful food, and special music.
There are two reasons why a winter vacation in Germany is magical:
- The tradition of Christmas markets, and
- The parade of winter holidays, amounting to a month-long festival.
So, on to the sights you’ll see in during Weihnachten in Deutschland!
Starting in late November, more than 150 Christmas markets open. Christmas markets both celebrate and instill the magic of the winter holidays with handcrafts, gluhwein (mulled wine), Christmas baked goods, choirs, brass bands, festivities of the seasons, and a blaze of lights. The decorations of buildings, stalls, and streets turn night nearly into bright day.
Two of the largest and most visited are Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt and Dresden’s Striezelmarkt. Parsberg, a smaller Christmas market, is built around the town’s castle, which is great for travelers looking to visit historic sites and buildings. Regensburg is a lovely medieval town with a beautiful cathedral near the Christmas market.
Travelers who live in the US will find that Germans celebrate many more holidays than just Christmas and the New Year during the winter season.
The first winter holiday is Advent, usually around December 1, which inaugurates the Christmas season. In Germany, children are given calendars with windows for every day until Christmas Eve. Each day, they are allowed to open a window and receive a special gift of some sort. Carols are popular for each Sunday until Christmas.
The next holiday is Saint Nicholas Day, on December 6. It is the custom for children to leave their shoes outside their bedrooms. Saint Nicholas decides whether children have been good or bad during the year. If the former, Saint Nicholas is benign and fills the shoes with Christmas treats. If the latter, they might get ashes or nothing. It is also the custom for Saint Nicholas to give presents at schools, accompanied by his second-in-command, Knecht Ruprecht.
Christmas and Christmas Eve are both times for family celebrations and church-going. “Silent Night” (Stille Nacht) is traditionally sung on Christmas Eve—and it is not usually sung before that, as it is specifically associated with the Christmas Eve holiday. Children are the recipients of gifts from the Christkindl, or Christ Child, on Christmas day.
The last holiday of the season is New Year’s Eve, also known as Silvester. The new year is heralded by fireworks. New Year’s Eve, like Christmas, has special treats: a sparkling wine, known as sekt, and karpfen, or jelly doughnuts.
Because Germany is a northern county with cold and snow, it is wise to say a word about the weather. (Recognize, though, that Germany is also a large and diverse country, and that the southern regions can be much warmer than the north.) Although weather can be a concern if you’re traveling by car, in Germany the weather trends are also an advantage.
Germans are very accustomed to driving in winter weather. Therefore, unless you are right in the middle of a blizzard, driving conditions are very safe. And if a blizzard does occur, there is no better place to wait it out over a roaring fire and gluhwein than Germany!
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