Christmas in Germany
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Christmas in Germany

Learning German language will expose travelers to a wide range of opportunities for experiencing the German culture, especially during the holiday season. There are many customs and traditions associated with Christmas in Germany and other German-speaking countries. Below several of these customs and traditions are listed.

The German Christmas tree season dates back to the country’s pre-Christian era, when the people who inhabited the country known as Germany would celebrate the seasonal solstices and equinoxes. The Germans used to decorate evergreen trees during the wintertime because they represented life and greenery that survived despite the bitter winter cold. The tradition included decorating the tree with candles to represent light, in addition to fruits and nuts. When the Germans emigrated to other places throughout the globe, they brought the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree with them.

In Germany, tourists can also visit Christmas markets, also known as Christkindlmärkte. These are large outdoor markets that are associated with Christmas during the Advent period. Sights to see at these Christmas markets include elaborate nativity scenes and decorated Christmas trees. These markets also sell toys, ornaments, and other items like Christmas cookies and gingerbread. There are several of these markets now that exist all over the world, including many places in Europe and North America.

The legend of Santa Claus has its roots in the story of Saint Nicholas, who is rumored to have given people gifts and to have performed several miracles. On the evening of December 5th, children in Germany leave a shoe or a boot outside their door to collect the gifts and treats that Saint Nicholas will leave them if they have been good all year. If they were not sufficiently good, they may receive a tree branch in their shoe instead. In some places, however, he came along with his servant Ruprecht, who was supposed to punish the children by beating them if they were naughty. As the legend has it, sometimes Ruprecht would come with a sack to take the mischievous children back to the forest with him.

These are just some of the German holiday traditions, both ancient and modern. People who begin learning German language will find it helpful to educate themselves about these traditions and customs so they can become more familiar with the culture they are learning about.

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Reform of 1996 and beyond
The German spelling reform of 1996 led to public controversy and considerable dispute.
Some state parliaments (Bundesländer) would not accept it (North Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria). The dispute landed at one point in the highest court, which made a short issue of it, claiming that the states had to decide for themselves and that only in schools could the reform be made the official rule—everybody else could continue writing as they had learned it.
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