24 German Christmas facts: DW's Advent calendar
Open a door each day of Advent to discover a new, interesting fact about Christmas in Germany.
Potato salad dinner
The most popular Christmas Eve dinner in Germany is potato salad with wieners, a 2014 study found. Perhaps because it's easy to prepare ahead of time, or because Christmas Eve is regarded by some as an evening of fasting, and a simple potato salad seems like an appropriate meal. Or perhaps people in Germany just like it. Yet others, like Chancellor Angela Merkel, traditionally serve goose.
By now, most Germans have bought all of their Christmas presents. Only about six percent still buy gifts on Christmas Eve, according to a study. One in four Germans even starts shopping for Christmas months ahead, during the fall.
Looking for a White Christmas in Germany? You might want to try the Zugspitze. Germany's highest peak is always covered in snow on Christmas Eve - at least ever since weather has been recorded there. People who don't want snow should travel to the German North Sea island of Heligoland. There, according to the statistics, it snows only once every 50 years.
Christkind vs. Santa
Is it Santa or the Christkind, the traditional German gift-bringer, who secretly delivers the presents on Christmas Eve? The answer depends on who you ask: in Germany's western states, children mostly believe in the Christ Child, while in eastern Germany, it's clearly Santa Claus.
Christmas, no thank you
Bah, humbug! One out of eight Germans would rather go without Christmas. They can't stand the stress or the hustle and bustle of the season, a recent German research has found. The vast majority, however, enjoys the Christmas season.
Tradition German sweets
Gingerbread, jelly and marzipan, layered and covered in chocolate: In 1936, Dominostein sweets were invented as an inexpensive alternative to costly truffles and pralines. Today, the little squares are a typical German Christmas treat.
The nativity scene
Traditional Christmas nativity mangers display Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Three Wise Men and of course a Baby Jesus lying in an improvised crib. Often, there will be a donkey and an ox: Although these animals are not mentioned in the nativity story, they are found in most nativity scenes because they are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.
On average, every German plans to spend 280 euros ($300) on Christmas gifts for loved ones, which is a bit more than last year, according to a consumer research study. People who plan to skip presents this year are definitely a minority.
Peace and harmony
The topic that leads the most couples to fight during the Christmas season is deciding where they should spend the holidays. Other bones of contention include Christmas decorations and the distribution of the tasks leading up to the festivities.
Spiced hot wine
The mulled wine sold at the Dresden Christmas market is said to have more calories than any other: 256 per mug, to be exact - or about half the calories of a chocolate bar. That's according to a study by the "nu3" online supermarket. According to their ranking, the mulled wine found at the markets in Cologne and Stuttgart has the least calories.
A noble tree for the Queen
The Christmas tree set up in front of Windsor Palace is a gift from Germany to the Queen of England. The Caucasian fir grew on the estate of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the home of the great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. The ornaments were also made in Germany, by a glassblower in Thuringia.
Famous Christmas carols
"Silent night," originally composed in German as "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht," is the most beloved Christmas song in Germany, say pollsters at the Emnid Institute. It's followed by "O du Fröhliche" and "O Tannenbaum." "Silent Night" was performed the very first time in a small chapel in Salzburg on Christmas Eve 1818. The carol has meanwhile been translated into more than 200 languages.
Candles instead of floodlights: Thousands of people who enjoy singing flock to huge soccer stadiums across the nation to sing Christmas carols together, like here in the city of Aachen in western Germany. On December 23, 44,000 enthusiasts are expected to show up for a sing-along at the stadium in Cologne.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, so it's time to light the next candle on the traditional Advent crown. This 40-meter-wide advent wreath at the Ludwigsburg Christmas market is the largest in Germany, and its candles are made out of wood. Advent wreathes first emerged in the mid-19th century in Hamburg, though the first ones didn't have sprigs of pine and had 24 candles instead of just four.
Favorite Christmas treats
Gingerbread cookies are the most popular Christmas treats in Germany - even more popular than spiced "Spekulatius" cookies or vanilla crescents, according to a recent survey by YouGov. This year, Christmas goodies were available on supermarket shelves four months before Christmas - while Germany was still enjoying summer temperatures.
Traditional wooden Christmas decorations
These traditional Christmas decorations, known as "Schwibbögen," originally come from the Erzgebirge, which is a mining region on the German-Czech border. The lights on the arch used to symbolize the longing of the miners for daylight. Nowadays, the decorations are popular all over Germany.
Mail your Christmas wishes
Have you made your Christmas list yet? In Germany, the "Christkind" (Christ child), who is depicted as a female angel, is said to bring the presents. You can send your Christmas wishes to her at: An das Christkind, 51777 Engelskirchen. Letters are sent from as far away as Japan and Russia months before Christmas. In total, the German postal service offers seven different Christmas addresses.
There are around 1,450 Christmas markets in Germany, including a few specialty markets that offer a medieval atmosphere or cater to the LGBTQ scene. There are also 10 vegan markets in Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Duisburg and other cities. These markets only sell products that are not made from animals.
St. Nicholas Day
Some 144 million chocolate Santas are produced each year in Germany, though with 213 million, considerably more chocolate Easter Bunnies are made. Every third chocolate Santa is exported to countries like the US, Australia, India and Japan.
Christmas tree trends
Germans have been buying smaller and smaller Christmas trees. They now average around 1.5 meters (4.9 feet), according to the German Christmas tree growers' association. Some 24 million Christmas trees are sold in Germany each year. The one pictured here is free. Santa is giving it to the international freight workers at the harbor in Hamburg.
Feast of Saint Barbara
The Feast of Saint Barbara is celebrated today by bringing branches - ideally from cherry or forsythia trees - into homes. If they bloom by Christmas, it's a sign of luck. The tradition pays tribute to Saint Barbara who was a martyr in the third century AD. According to legend, branches caught on her dress while she was being led to the dungeon and they bloomed the day before her execution.
The world's biggest stollen
A ton of flour, 675 kilos (1488 pounds) of butter, 180 kilos of sugar and 1.35 million raisins can be found in this giant stollen - which is made of many stollens pasted together with butter and sugar. The traditional XXL cake is cut today in Dresden. In 1730, bakers in Dresden created a similar stollen colossus in honor of a ruler, which is remembered with the modern-day stollen festival.
Christmas trees on the ceiling
Well into the 20th century, Christmas trees were hung upright from the ceiling in many German living rooms. That way, they didn't take up valuable space. The trees were decorated, but not with candles. Pictured is a tree from Czechoslovakia in 1938.
The Advent calendar
Sometimes the 24 surprises are packed in socks; sometimes they're behind paper doors. From December 1-24, DW presents this Advent calendar, but tangible ones are used all over Germany. The first Advent calendars were printed in the early 20th century in Munich. Before that, the days until Christmas were counted with tear-off calendars. In 1920, the first calendar with little doors was sold.