"Christmas Around the World" logoNovember 2003-January 2004
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Germany 
German flag Froehliche Weihnachten
German tree
 
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Many of our Christmas customs come from Germany,such as Christmas trees, wreaths, Advent calendars, and gingerbread houses. Christmas is the biggest and most important holiday in Germany, and the season, with its many celebrations, lasts more than a month.

The tannenbaum, or Christmas tree, came from Germany. Legend has it that Martin Luther saw a little pine tree covered with snow and glowing in the starlight. He thought the tree would be beautiful inside the home so he cut it down, placed candles on the tree and thus was born the tradition of the decorated Christmas tree.

Most homes include in their holiday decorations a Knusperhous, literally a nibble house. The house is usually made of Lebkuchen and decorated with candy that is attached with icing. Friends and family can "nibble" from this house when they wish. The Lebkuchen tradition goes back to the sixteenth century and is also used for cookies.

It is tradition for the children to receive gifts from Saint Nicholas on December 6. Saint Nicholas travels with Knecht Ruprecht, who carries bundles of switches to remind children to be good all year. German children also receive gifts from other figures on Christmas morning. One legend says they are delivered by Christkind, a girl who wears a crown of candles and carries a basket of gifts.

Christmas Eve finds most people attending a candlelight church service. Afterward, family and friends gather to sing carols, exchange gifts and enjoy holiday foods. Christmas Day is much of the same except for the Christmas Feast. People in Germany extend their Christmas one more day, for the day after Christmas is also a holiday.

The ornaments on our German christmas tree were purchased by Henry Albers on a trip to Germany and are on loan to us from the Museum of Amana History in Amana, Iowa.