Christmas in Germany
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED May 09, 2018
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Christmas, both a religious and cultural phenomenon today, is the annual holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, celebrated across the world, on the 25th of December. The festival has grown from being the central event in the Christian liturgical calendar to be secularized and celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is remarkable how every culture brings to Christmas its particular beliefs and myths. The German ‘Weihnachten’ is culturally different from the celebrations in other parts of Europe. For instance, Christmas celebrations begin relatively early in Germany, for the Christian ritual of the Advent is observed with marked enthusiasm. Here are a few ways to celebrate Christmas in Germany if one finds themselves in the country during the time:
Visit the Stollen festival, Dresden
This is a remarkable festival particular to Germany that has its basis in the baked goods of ‘stollen’- a cross between sweet bread and icing sugar sprinkled German fruitcake. For this festival, a giant ‘stollen’, which measures over forty meters and weighs more than 3000 kgs is prepared and then in a horse drawn carriage it is ceremoniously showed all historic sites around Dresden. This tradition dates back to the 1730’s when the Saxony emperor gave orders for a huge stolen to be prepared for the military festivals and then this big loaf was cut into twenty-four thousand portions to be distributed to soldiers and guests. Every year in present-day Dresden, the cake is divided into smaller pieces and then sold to the public in the Christmas market, with a special 1.6m knife weighing 12kgs. It is being celebrated on the Saturday before the Sunday of Advent since last twenty one years. This is a quirky festival and has excellent baked goods, an experience that every foodie must indulge in, close to Christmas day.
Attend the ‘ChocolART’ Chocolate festival
This grand chocolate festival is held every year at the quaint town of Tübingen near Stuttgart over a sprawling area of 10,000 sq.ms of land area. Held over a period of 5 days in the first week of December, this is the best way to herald in the season of indulgences and merry-making. At the festival, one can sample chocolates from Africa, South America, Europe and more, as top 100 chocolatiers from all over the globe gather in this small town- to celebrate chocolate, and to celebrate with chocolate. A wide variety of tastings, cooking, theatre performances, shopping options are available to the visitors, exploring in full the carnival spirit of Christmas. The festival offers a variety of workshops and courses, all focusing on the process of chocolate-making. This amazing chocolate festival helps highlight the cause of fourteen million individuals earning their bread and butter through production of chocolate. The festival accords free entry to all and sundry interested in visiting this gala of chocoholic goodness.
Attend the Circus in Krone
Europe’s most prominent and most affluent circus makes its way to the German festivities every year in winter. This is without doubt one of the most famous attractions in Munich for families, drawing tourists and locals alike. As the biggest and most luxurious high-end circus, it has a whole entourage of extremely talented performers and artists, along with enrapturing shows featuring elephants, hippos, lions and rhinoceros among other animals. The circus is set apart from the rest of the Christmas festivities in the country due to its exotic and eclectic nature.
Enjoy the Hamburg Fair
Every city in Germany has its own Christmas markets or fairs. The one at Hamburg is mentioned, for it is a combination of 3 Christmas marketplaces into one, providing thrice the fun. Amazing food, Exhilarating rides, drinks, games and family fun ensues, to be topped off by the grandest fireworks. The fair is open for around 30 days tentatively beginning in the starting days of November. All patrons are granted free entry.
Be a part of the Tollwood Winter Festival
The Tollwood festival is celebrated twice in one year- once in summer and again in winter. The Tollwood festival on the ‘Theresienwiese’ (winter) is held at Munich from the last week of November, traditionally from just before the first Sunday of Advent, lasting till December 23rd. The cultural performances often go on until New Year’s Eve. The festival offers a whole range of events which do not fail to entertain. An entire month of music and dance, plays and concerts, cabaret and circus shows, with food and drinks galore. With more than a million people participating every year, it is one of the most popular festivals in the country. The speciality of the event is in its environment-friendly focus and theme. Entry is free for all, but concerts and performances require tickets.
Visit the Christmas Garden, Berlin
This is a grand celebration held at the Berlin Botanical Gardens. The beautiful lights and reflections in the water, illuminating nature provide a fairytale landscape for people to wander in. Roughly a stretch of 1.5km of breathtaking light shows, light figures and magic forests, this is time away from the packed crowds and provides a quiet moment in the usual hullaballoo of festivities. Food stalls offer a variety of local culinary specialities. There are fire pits to gather around in the cold weather. A 300m squared ice rink is also a part of the gardens, for those who are athletically inclined.
Enjoy the ‘Silvester’ or New Year’s Eve Parties
Grand festivities are held in the cities of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, and Hamburg, of which the capital throws a spectacular party to be reckoned with. The Brandenburg Gate is the centre of it all where hundreds of thousands of people gather to usher in the New Year in style. The entire stretch of the road continuing on till the Victory Column in Tiergarten park becomes the venue of the grand fest.
Attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
Tradition holds strong in the capital city of Berlin, and the experience is exemplified at the Midnight Mass conducted at the Berliner Dom, perhaps the city’s most impressive cathedral. The Mass has a unique spiritual appeal which holds true even for the irreligious. The Protestant Church at Mitte holds a service complete with German renditions of favourite Christmas carols that touches even the non-native English-speaker.
With more than a million footfalls every year, Germany stands as a significant tourist attraction even during Christmas time. If one has an intention to spend Christmas a little differently this year, venturing out rather than staying in, Germany poses as a great destination.