“Weihnachten” from my Childhood

Christmas, Weihnachten, Advent
I remember the romantic historical Christmas markets from my childhood, the garland lights and glittering Christmas trees, the Glühwein, which is hot spiced mulled red wine, the Eggnog Liqueur Punsch and Lebkuchen
Wuerzburg Christmas market

Christmas Time in Germany is the most magical and festive time. All this makes a dreary season heart light up

Officially, the Advent season starts at the first Sunday in December, followed by three more on which a candle would be lit until Christmas

Adventskranz, Advent Christmas wreath

As children we decorated a wreath with four candles, called “Adventskranz,” and lit a new candle every Sunday. Afterward we would walk down the street and view the decorated homes with wreaths, yards and trees with strings of lights, and Pyramids or Arches with candles in the windows

Baking Cookies and Cake

In the afternoons we enjoyed to an Adventskaffee, which is coffee, home-baked “Weihnachtsplätzchen” like Spekulatius which is a spicy Christmas cookie, a cake or Auszogne pastry. The grown ups would sometimes drink Eggnog Liqueur in shot glasses

My mother would spend time with us children baking Spekulatius (spiced cookies), Lebkuchen (Gingerbread), Vanilla crescents and Butter cookies. Only at Christmas we were also allowed to eat the Egg Liqueur or Rum Cake

  • German Christmas Cookies on plate
  • Christmas Cookies, Vanilla crescents
  • German Lebkuchen, Gingerbread
  • German Spekulatius Cookies
  • Egg Liquor cake, Eierlikörkuchen
  • Christmas Cookies, Linzer Plätzchen
  • Rumkuchen, Rum cake
  • Eggnog liquor cake
  • German Spekulatius Cookies

Christmas Music

My father was the church organist and lead a children chorus. Naturally some of us children had a musical talent and played instruments like flute (Flöte), guitar or piano.

“Christkindlmarkt” Christmas Market

Friends and neighbors of my parents would meet at the Veitshöchheim or the Würzburg Christmas market to enjoy a cup of “Glühwein” and us kids drank hot chocolate.

“Barbaratag” St. Barbara Day

Another old old tradition we practiced was cutting a few branches of fruit and nut trees, like cherry, apple or chestnut on Dec. 4th. I remember the vase with the branches was set on on our fathers desk in the living room.

Barbara Zweig, branch

My mother’s first name was Barbara, so Dec. 4 was a special day, the “Barbaratag”, named after the martyr St. Barbara, who died in the third century. The branches were supposedly bloom by Christmas Eve. It was serving as a good-luck charm for the coming year.

German Christmas calendar with chocolate

As children, our Christmas or Advent calendars were filled with chocolate or small gifts to open each day until Dec. 24 to make the anticipation to Christmas seem shorter

Also see: Christmas Calendars that are filled with Chocolate

Sankt Nikolaus, Santa Claus Germany

Children look forward to a visit by St. Nikolaus and Knecht Rupprecht (for naughty children) on December 6

My parents would put out small presents like chocolate, fruit and nuts into our shined boots at night of December 5th and placed them outside. Sometimes Sankt Nikolaus, a friend or neighbor in a Bishop costume, would bring goodies in a bag the next day. He was accompanied with his assistant Knecht Rupprecht, or the scary and hairy looking Krampus

Decorating the “Weihnachtsbaum”

A week before Christmas, my parents and some of us would drive to a Christmas tree lot at Old Town Veitshöchheim, or a supermarket parking lot to pick up the nicest tree we could find.

We brought up the nativity set from the basement and also our ornaments. As I remember, they consisted of straw stars and Angels. We liked our tree in the old German (Altdeutsch) tradition.

When we were younger, we went to the children mass service at 5 pm where I sang in the children chorus and some of my sisters played instruments.

We ate a small meals at Christmas eve, like the picture below: Franconian Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Bauernbrot or Baguette, sometimes with mashed Potatoes or Potato salad

Franconian Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and mashed Potatoes

In anticipation, as children we always looked forward to Christmas Eve on the 24th. It was usually spent with close family

Straw Christmas Angel, Stroh Engel

While us younger girls were in mass, my parents and some older siblings would decorate the tree with “altdeutsche Tradition,” that means wood straw ornaments and angels, sometimes also paper stars. Other years we had shiny Lametta. Back then we used real candles.

While us children were in mass, it gave our parents time to wrap the presents and arrange the “Krippe” nativity scene under the tree

“Heiligabend und Bescherung” Christmas eve and the unwrapping of the Gifts

With excitement we came home from the “Kindermette” (children church service) and unfortunately the door to the living room was still locked. When we were little, we believed hat Christkindl or the Christ child was delivering the gifts, not knowing it was our parents inside wrapping presents and setting up the table.

I was the youngest of six children, and this was my first Christmas in the 60’s. I am sitting on my Oma’s lap on the left. In the earlier years we still used the shiny Christmas decoration which I don’t remember. My father was a teacher, and until I was three we lived in the lower level of the village school house near Ochsenfurt. We had a nice childhood, a long time after WWII ended and Germany went through the “Wirtschaftswunder” which means an economic upswing.

After we heard a little bell ring, we were let into the room. Our eyes lit when we saw the decorated Christmas tree. Our presents were already placed under the tree. But before we could unwrap them, we sat together and sang traditional Christmas songs. One of us children would read aloud the Birth of Jesus story. I played the flute, my sister the guitar, and my dad played the piano and we usually sang “Stille Nacht” or Silent Night and the “Oh Tannenbaum” besides others.

Christmas Day Dinner

On the first Christmas Day the close family usually got together for a large festive meal, most times a Christmas goose or duck, red cabbage and dumplings. The second day was reserved for extended family, or visits with friends. After dinner we’d have long walks in the crisp winter air.

“Dreikönigstag” or Epiphany

Our Christmas tree stood until Jan. 6 when the season comes to an end. This “Dreikönigstag” or Epiphany is the time the “Sternsinger” (star singers) from the the town’s church would walk from door to door to collect money for charity projects. The group is usually composed of four children or teenagers, dressed up as the three wise men and a star bearer

Three Kings Day, Epiphany
Sternsinger “Dreikönigstag” or Epiphany

Stern or Carol singers are people who go around dressed up as the Three Wise Men to raise money for charity. Usually it is children and young people who are so involved. Holy Three Kings: What does the carol singers saying C + M + B on the doors mean? The blessing “20 C + M + B 18” stands for the Latin “Christ mansionem benedicat” (“Christ bless this house”). The beginning and end is the divided year. The saying is written in chalk on the doors when the carol singers receive a donation. How long has the custom of star singing existed? The Catholic custom was already known in the 16th century.

Some of these old traditions I hold dear and passed it on to my daughter and grandchild

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2 thoughts on ““Weihnachten” from my Childhood

  1. What wonderful memories. My parents lived in Wurzburg after the war – my oldest brother and sister were born in Germany. My parents had fond memories of Christmas in Germany.

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