Merry Christmas everyone! I hope all of you have happy holidays, no matter where in world you are. I am currently in Kentucky and experience my third American Christmas. However, I still notice differences between German and American Christmas traditions…
#1: Vorweihnachtszeit (The time before Christmas)
Germany: Beginning of December German kitchens smell like a Christmas fairytale. It is time to bake many types of Christmas Cookies (From scratch!). Grandmas recipes for “Vanillekipferl” or “Zimtsterne” recall childhood memories. We love to bake with cinnamon, hazelnut and vanilla sugar. I did not realize that baking is such a big part of our Christmas traditions until I received pictures of the Christmas cookies from my German friends. I did not notice a similar baking tradition here in America. I am sure there are people that bake from scratch but it is much more common in Germany. Another thing that turned out to be German is the Adventskranz. I told my husband that we will have an Adventskranz this year. He had no idea what I am talking about. The four Sundays before Christmas are called Advent. The first Sunday is the first Advent, the second Sunday the second Advent and so on. In Germany, the Christmas season officially starts at the first Advent. The Advetskranz counts down the weeks to Christmas.
America: America is getting into the Christmas spirit immediately the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). Shopping malls and grocery stores play Christmas music all day. People wish each other Merry Christmas already! They start putting up Christmas trees and decorate houses with Christmas lights. The decoration includes Snowmen, Micky Mouse, Reindeer and everything you can think of and more. It is like a Christmas decoration contest. For me, it is amazing to see all of this in real life. It reminds me of the movie home alone.
#2: Christmas tree
The picture below shows the different cultures without even using words. Which one would you guess its German and which one is American?
Germany: The tree on the left side is obviously a German Christmas tree. We like real trees and a very classic decoration with lights and red Christmas balls. Some Families may include straw ornaments or sweets. In the past, a lot of Germans used real candles instead of electric lights. The tree normally gets set up on Christmas Eve (which is Christmas Day in Germany) and stays up until January 6th.
America: As I mentioned earlier the Christmas tree is put up usually the day after Thanksgiving and taken down sometimes after New Years. It is very common to use a plastic tree. The decoration is.. let’s just say very very different than what I am used to. The tree is almost completely covered in bright colorful and shiny decorations. The tree in the picture on the right has a “little” bow on the top.
#3: Christmas Day
Germany: Germany celebrates Christmas on December 24th. This is the main Christmas Day. Germans have three days of Christmas! Christmas Day on 24th, the first Christmas holiday on December 25th and the second Christmas Holiday on December 26th. People wish each other Merry Christmas starting on December 24th.
The presents are brought either by the angel like Christkind or the Weihnachtsmann on December 24th. Most Families open the presents after the Christmas dinner.
America: In the USA Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. Santa Clause is keeping a record of who was naughty and who was nice and brings the presents at night while the kids are sleeping. Naughty ones get a lump of coal. That would not work in Germany, coal is a symbol of money. Some Families open the presents in the morning others after lunch. I have noticed that people in America would spend a lot more for presents and Christmas Shopping is a big deal here. After Black Friday the stores switch to Christmas sales. It seems a little bit more commercialized than in Germany.
#5: The Christmas Pickle
I could not believe my eyes when I found the Traditional German Christmas Pickle on Amazon. Apparently, this is a German Tradition. I have never seen a Christmas Pickle Ornament in my whole life. So maybe I just missed something about my own culture, or America just made something up in order to sell it.In case you are German and you know the Christmas Pickle please let me know. To all my American friends, I am sorry I highly doubt this is a German tradition. That’s all I have to say about my observations of cultural Christmas differences between Germany and the USA.
I wish you all Merry Christmas regardless where and how you celebrate (with or without Pickle). 😉