Preparations begin in November when every family sets up the Christmas calendar and the Advent wreath. The calendar counts the days from the 1st to the 24th of December, while the Advent wreath has four candles, which are lit one by one on the four Sundays until Christmas. Variations in these decorations range from elaborate hand-crafts to cheaply bought – but they all have the same purpose: shorten the time until the big feast!
At home my mother used to buy sweets and when I got older I helped her to fill the sachets, which we would hang in front of our living room window. Each year, my siblings and I would put our heads together and come up with a self-made calendar for my parents too. Our Advent wreath for the last years was not made of the usual green branches, but consisted of a metal construction which is filled by Christmas tree ornaments.
The four Advent Sundays in December have a special meaning in Germany. Each day begins by lightning another candle of the Advent wreath and commonly inviting family and friends to have a chat and share home-made pastries.
It is also tradition to send Christmas Cards and to make straw stars or other Christmas decorations for the house. If you don’t have time to make them by yourself, it is a good idea to visit one of the numerous Christmas markets, which are held all over the country, and buy your decorations there. Here, you can also enjoy various Christmas delicacies such as gingerbread, almond biscuits, christmas stollen, roasted almonds, roasted chestnuts, and mulled wine.
When Christmas finally arrives the Christmas tree – fir or spruce – will be set up and decorated. It is also common to install a manger beneath.
In my family, we used to have a big branch in front of our window instead of a tree, because my sister was really small and my parents worried that she would accidentally knock the tree over. We also do not have a traditional manger, but each year we have a lot of fun to put all our old toy figures together and create our own scene of the holy night.
Even if many people do not regularly attend mass as every church is crowded with people on the 24th, it is very common that children present a nativity scene. After the service, all the families head home and have a big meal together. Afterwards everyone gathers around the Christmas tree and exchanges presents.
by Schirin H.