Last Updated: 19 Oct 2001
German Christmas Holiday Calender
Collected by Judy A. Remmick-Hubert
German celebrations using dates of the year 2000 - 2001:
#11 Nov - St. Martin's Day*
St. Martin is the patron of drunkards and was given the task of saving all men from falling to this danger. The Christians chose to remember St. Martin on the same day which had been the old pre-Christian day known as Bacchus Feast Day or Vinalia.
This is the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year and at 11 PM the Fasching king and queen are choosen. During Fasching Celebration [period after Christmas and before Lent] the king and queen attend many balls in pursue of fun and frolic.
Although St. Martin's symbolic bird is the raven, it is the goose which is connected to this holiday. Probably out of necessitity, this became the a day when geese are plucked for their down [feathers] and some are sacrificed in memory of the 4th century French Bishop of Tours who was betrayed by the honking of geese. This is done just in time to use the feathers for the needed pillows and father beds for the coming cold of winter. The goose fat is needed for all the baking done for the coming holidays. The bird's feather wings were used for dusting done in preparation of the holidays guest who would be invited into a person's home. In the olden days, the old feathers were made into quills needed for writing relatives the holiday invitations.... Superstitions of old about this bird is interesting. The goose's wishbone thickness was said to forecast the weather for the coming winter. If the bone was thick it meant a very cold winter.... The goose grease was mixed in various medical formulas. One was / is used for the chest for a cold.
The day the feasting and drinking for the Christmas holidays begins.
#Nov 29 - 30 at midnight: Girls who want to be wed throw a shoe at a door. If the toe points toward the exit, she will marry within the year. Or, the girl could peel an apple.Without breaking the peeling, she must toss it over her shoulder and if the peel forms a letter of the alphabet, it tells her the first letter of the name of her future husband....
#30 Nov. - St. Andrew's [Andreas'] Day*
In memory of St. Andrew, one of Jesus' Twelve Apostles, who was said to have been executed on a diagonally transverse cross [X] in 60 A.D.. His description best known is that of an old man with long white hair and beard leaning on a staff in the shape of an X.....
Opening Day for Christmas markets all across Germany
#1 Dec.- Children opened the first window [paper shutter] on their Advent calendar...*
#2 Dec. -
#3 Dec - Sunday -
First Sunday of Advent [four weeks before Christ's birthday the celebration of anticipation began by going to church and the bringing out the "Adventskranz" [Advent wreath of boughs of fir, bound with red, green sometimes purple ribbon] There are four candles placed in the wreath to commemorates the First and Second Coming of Christ.. The first one is lit on this Sunday.
Often times the candles are colored, red or pink and purple or green. A white one represents "The Christ Candle" and is lit on Christmas Eve.
In Palatinate a small house, Adventshaus, with four little lit windows was built and behind each was placed a candle.day
#4 Dec - St. Barbara's Day*:
So named after a girl who lived in the 3rd or 4th century Nikomedia [Iamet, Turkey] who was locked up in her father's, Dioscuros, tower to protect her innoscence [virginity] while he traveled as a merchant. When he returned home, he accused his daughter of having turned to Christianity. He ordered her torture and condemned her to death. As she was drug to the dungeon, a branch of a cherry tree was caught in her dress. While in the dungeon, she watered the branch which bloomed.... She became a virgin martyr In her memory, the Christians created the St. Barbara's Feast Day.... Another ritual added to this day are the branches of blooming apple, chestnut, cherry, lilac or jasmine forced to early bloom before Christmas in homes in Germany... .
In Nuremburg a young child, who are robed in white and presenting the Christ child, is accompanied by two tinsel angels and appear on the balcony of the Fauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. In rhyme verse the child narrates a formal invitation to fair visitors. Trumpets blare, bells ring and carolers sing.
In Zwetschgenmaennle and Zwetschgenfrauen dried fruits and nuts wrapped in crepe paper are handed out to the children....
In 14th-century a Dresden baker bread shaped to resemble the Christ-child in swaddling clothes. This bread became known as stollen ..... See web sites at bottom of this page for recipes
Fruit cake took the place of stollen bread by some and is baked on this day.
#6 Dec. - Saint Nicholas Feast *-
St. Nick arrives with candy, nuts and fruit for children [since the 1400s in Germany]. He is accompanied by Ruprecht [Sinterklaas] who is dressed in black, carries a stick to paddle bad little children.
In Nuremburg the Christmas season begins 6 Dec. and they have a Christmas fair , Christkindesmarkt [Christ Child's mart].
Legends tells us that a man by the name of Hauser made an angel doll for his wife who suffered from the lost of a daughter. When she woke she thought the doll by her was her sleeping daughter.... He was asked to make more dolls and to this day, one buys an angel doll at the Nuremburg Christ Child's market made, now, by local people....
In the early years, St. Nickolas gave gifts only to the boys.
#7 Dec. -
#10 Dec. -
Second Advent Sunday. Attend church . Second candle is lit on the Advent wreath.
#13 Dec - St. Lucia's Day and Festival of Lights*
Who was St. Lucia? It is often said that she was a woman who was persecuted then beheaded. Her body was taken to Constantinople then Venice where her remains rest in the church of Santa Lucia. She became the patron saint of the "lights" which leads man out of darkness....
In early times St. Lucia was St. Nicholas counterpart and delivered gift to the girls who were not given gifts on St. Nicholas Day.
Process of Lanterns [Lichterzug], wooden or wire designed as stars, snow flakes, sunbursts..... are carried by school children from the butchers shop [bridge] to the house of the most wealthy family [castle hill] where the five tableaux display the Christmas story....
Celebrated in Nuremburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Berlin and others cities that have Christkindlesmarkt.
In Bavaria it is called Feast of St. Lucia. Some lanterns are carried on high poles. In Fuerstenfeldbruck their lanterns are lighted doll houses that are sent a float on the current of the river under the central bridge of the town and many vanish around the bend and vanish into the night.... May have been gained from Sweden for they began their Christmas with floating lights on the Feast of St. Lucia....
Some families carried the following tradition: In the morning, the eldest daughter of the family or the mother without daughters, dressed in a white robe with a red sash. She places on her head a wreath of green with Lucia's lighted candles. She walks through the family home and offers the traditional Saffron Bun to the members of her family while they are still in bed. As she does this she sings... Again, this tradition appears to have been originally Swedish created from the legend about St. Lucia who was said to have saved the Swedish people during a famine. Some areas have blended the family tradition with the church service, and, the floating lights.
In some German villages there is one Lucia who walks with a torch from home to home [farm to farm] delivering saffron buns and steaming coffee and is on her way home by day break.
In Silesia the twelve nights of Christmas start on the 13th of Dec.*
#14 Dec. -
#15 Dec. -
#16 Dec. -
Third Advent Sunday. Attend church. Lit the third candle on the Advent wreath
St. Thomas' Day* was created to remember the Apostle Thomas [Didymus] who was the last to believe Jesus 's resurrection, therefore, the rituals are based around the emotions person who is full of doubt.
In Westphalia one student is allowed to sleep late and given the title of "Lazybone" or "Donkey" [reference of a slow poke] who then arrives to his class in school late. Later in the day this area in Germany has it's largest feast [The Rittburgische Hochzeit = Rittberg Wedding] because what you eat at this meal represents how well you will eat throughout the following year. This tradition is called Thomasfaupelz or Domesel.
In Bavaria their Schweinethomas [St. Thomas Pig] Feast is celebrated with the Christmas Pig [Weihnachter] which ends the day the pigs are butchered to have meat and sausages used during the Christmas holidays. This made a Bloody Thomas [Blutiger Damerl]... To add humor to this, it was known that great friendly rivals stole the Christmas Pig [usually alive] with cunning, no bodily force was allowed. It was often a habit of farmers to sleep in the piggery to protect their Christmas pig from such "Tom-foolery".
In southern Germany fruit, nuts and vegetables are gathered in a bowl on the table for visitors. In some areas, the gift of the Segensfruechte [Blessed Fruit], apples and nuts, are taken to neighbors.
In Cologne St. Thomas is voiced in poems..
Winter Solstice 1:37 (GHT] The day of the year which is the shortest day and then the longest night .
Hanukkah [Feast of Lights] A Jewish Holiday, including Jesus' during his life, celebrated the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 B.C. for the eight days. Also , known as the Feast of Maccabees. The Christians moved this date to the 13 th of Dec..
#22 Dec. -
#23 Dec. -
#24 Dec. -
Christmas Eve*, [Heiligabend].....
Fourth Advent Sunday
The day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ
Christmas room [parlor] the tree is prepared while the family are at church... If all members of a family attend church than some families prepared the tree before attending church. Top of the tree always had a star or angel.... White candles [lights] only..... balls of glass, tinfoil strips, gingerbread cookies were hung on the branches..... Door was usually locked and not opened until the Gabenbringer [Gift Bringer, Christkind...] had come and gone..... Door is open and the children view the lights and tree. Everyone gathered around and sang Stille Nacht [Silent Night].....
In some families, red lights [red candles] were used and not white lights [white candles].... Note: I'm not sure if this is a family tradition or one of a certain area in Germany..
Fourth Advent Sunday Fourth candle is lit ...... Children opened the twenty fourth window [paper shutter] on their Advent calendar
In the year of 2000, the fourth Sunday falls on the same day of Christmas Eve. On other years, this may stand on it own.
Others who can appear on Christmas Eve are Frau Holle who shook the pillows and created snow; Hoellenfahrt, the leader of the ghostlike witches, who drifted around this night; Wasserhollen, water sprites, were common.
In Schleswig-Holstein there was the Schimmelreiter, the knight on the white horse, who's ghost rode this night.... Sometimes the knight had a partner called Christmann.....
A night many demons gorge themselves with herring, poppy, carp and sweet breads and with such bellyaches moaned and groaned through the wintry night....
In Strassbourg it is believed the Christ child decorates the tree. The tinsel is part of the angel's hair caught on the branches as they flew away after helping the Christ Child..
On the island of Fehmarn the ladies played cards for spice cakes or Yule Cakes (Jul Kuken).
In Berchtesgaden a lighted candle is placed on very grave in the cemetery.
In Oberammergau, small Christmas trees with burning candles are put on the graves.
In Thuringia it was the custom to pull one straw from each thatched roof to bring good luck.
Fruit trees were beaten just before midnight with the thought that the tree would produce more the following year.
In Swabia, vinegar and wine casks were shaken to make sure they would always remain full.
#25 Dec - Christmas Day*
Also known as the First Day of the Twelve Days of Christmas or Twelfth Tide (Die zwoelf Rauhanaechte). It is believed the spirits are out this night for their "Wild Haunt" or Wild Hunt (Weilde Jagd) which prefers to the fact they can haunt people on these twelve nights. A custom of burning incense on the altars of the churches, homes and stables were to drive out these wild spirits. Some areas have Smoke Nights (Rauchwecken) where boys go from house to house making loud noises, sign of the cross and wearing grotesque costumes. On these nights, doors, which were normally left unlocked, were locked. In Bavaria, no one washed clothes and hung them out to dry. Some areas didn't bake or spin on these twelve nights.. On some of this night and the next eleven nights, boys went from door to door delivering bread rolls (Rauchsemmeln) and recite Rauchsprueche. Young boys were often dressed in furs turned inside out and had masks as they visited farms and was known as Rauch or Rauh, 'fur' nights. Straw men were often seen on these nights and were meant to frighten away the spirits.
During the twelve nights, it is known that some people can see the future of the following year.
Girls eager to marry would toss their slippers into a pear tree twelve times and if it stuck, she would marry the man of her dreams.
#26 Dec. - St Stephen's Day* & Pfefferlestag *
Pfefferlestag is celebrated by Protestants, a day for family reunions or outings
Second Day of Christmas (der zweite Weihnachtstag) , or, known as St. Stephen who was King of Hungary and became a national hero of the Magyars because he continued Christianization.
In Southern Germany, there is a horse-back procession to obtain the blessing of St Stephen.
#27 Dec. - Feast of St. John, the Evangelist.*
A day devoted to visiting friends.
#28 Dec. - Day of the Innocents* or " To Let Fly Day".
A day children sought good luck and went from house to house asking [begging, Heischesprueche) for spice or honey cakes. The person of the house asked for a verse and when given by the child, the treat was then given as reward
A day to remember the infant boys King Herod massacred.
#31 Dec - New Years Eve*
Also known as Sylvestertag, the feast day of St.Sylvester.... who was the Pope who convinced Constantine the Great to become a Christian...
It was custom to give a piggy bank as a gifts are candies in shape of pigs.....
In Berlin one ate carp and keep a few scales in a coin purse for good luck.
Home-made drums and strange instruments were often used by the young men who marched through town as the collected their rewards of cakes, apples, nuts and they'd place them in red handkerchiefs with knots on the corners.
With the drums were displays of fireworks and sometimes a wooden spoon to the back side of a pan was used to frighten away the spirits.
Cracking whips was another way of frightening away the spirits.
Some poured molten lead into water (Bleigiessen) in some kind of ritual of looking into the future. It the lead takes the shape of a boat, a person was about to take a long trip.. It a heart then a person was about to fall in love.
Some took a pin and stuck the bible at random and then read a loud the verse picked and this was to show the future....
Food was often hot wine-punch, New Year donuts, special sugar cones and were dunk in alcohol were suspended over the punch bowl and dripped slowly into punch.
On this night, joke food was often given. Example, chocolates with mustard, sugar lumps with spiders, top hats with a long string of black sausage..
At parties live pigs were often brought in the room at midnight.
Clinking of glasses and saying a toast to the New Year
In some areas, the Chimney Sweep, who dressed in black clothes and top hat, was hired to join the party to bring good luck to all.
Turning out the lights before midnight and then at the stroke of midnight turn them back on.
Some areas, the entire house is closed and locked just before midnight and them all are thrust open as the clock chimes twelve strokes.
#1 Jan. 2001 - New Years Day*
In Franconia and Mecklenburg the twelve nights of Christmas begins on 1 Jan.
#2 Jan. - Three Day New Years Celebration continues
#3 Jan - Three Day New Years Celebration Ends
#5 Jan. - Eve of Epiphany *-
Taken to the churches to be blessed are water, salt, chalk and incense which held special powers and were sprinkled around home, stables, over fields, even on animals to protect them. Chalk was used to write the initials of the three kings on doors with a cross and the year.
This is the 12th night of Christmas and the final lights of Christmas are lit....
#6 Jan - Time of Epiphany [Appearance]* - .
Three Kings' Day (Dreikoenigstag)* Three kings [Wise Men] in the East saw a bright star which guided them to Bethlehlem to the newborn baby Jesus whom they gave their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . ... After the ninth century the kings were given the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar....In their memory doors are marked [these days with chalk] with the initials of C+M+B and sprinkled with holy water. Originally this day was celebrated on the 25th of Dec and in the 4th century was changed to the 6th of Jan. .For those who have the scene of Christ birth in a stable, the figures of the three kings are not added until this day....
In 1164 is was said that the relics of the Three kings were taken from Milan to Cologne where a shrine was built and this became the object of pilgrimages (Dreikoenigschrein)... The Emperor's bell was sounded to mark the beginning of this special service given in the Cologne Cathedral..... From this custom came the "star singing" to raise money for charity....
If one was to travel, the additional protection was the same kind of writing of the three kings and date written on three pieces of paper and held while traveling..
Water diviners cut their sticks on this day and dedicated them to the Three Kings.
Night of Epiphany*
A man comes out into the street with a long pole upon which is a lantern shaped like a star. Behind him follow the children, each with their own star, who sing... Sometimes the children wear crowns and white gowns and known as Sternsinger. There are also the Sternguckers who or troupes of singers who sing ancient German songs. Everyone eats well this night. Pageants of the Magi is often celebrated in southern Germany and gunshots, firecrackers and the ringing of the bells are heard.
Bean King and Queen were chosen on this day (Bohnenkoenighswahl). The one chosen to be king was the one who ate A Three Kings' cake and found within a black bean. He, then, chose his Queen.
In Koenigsberg which was once in East Prussia , the strange drums are used and known as Drummtopf..
Processions of Light are held in Pottenstein in Franconian Mts. And North Bavaria....
Bonfires are common in the mountain villages.
The Tree decorations are taken down and the cookie decorations can be eaten, now.
Spirits have gone back to their places and one can have a peaceful sleep this night....
Feast of Epiphany [ Candlemas or Maria Lichtmess Day]
Christmas Tree lights are lit for the final night of this celebration.
As soon as it's dark, man carried a tall pole lantern the shape of a star and the children are to follow him. They stop at each corner or square and sing ancient songs handed down through the ages.
In some areas the singers [Sternsinger] wear crowns upon wigs and are dressed in white gowns...
Munich call this time period Fasching. Munich holds a parade on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday
Rhineland, Mainz and Cologne call this time period Karneval.
During this time, some areas tap the wine barrels or beer barrels as part of their pre-Lent celebrations.
"A wine barrel that is not tapped will surely burst," is a saying given credit to a churchman in the 15 th century
#- Rosenmontag on the Monday before Ash Wednesday is usually celebrated with a parade
The Rhineland has a parade on this day.
# 10 Jan - Carnival [ Karneval] Time [Fasching] * is often thought to be the period of time between Christmas Celebration and Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent. However, if you go back to the 11th of Nov, it had begun with the choosing of the King and Queen who through the seasons appeared at the many balls.....
# - Shrove Tuesday [Faschingsdienstag].
Kehraus Ball [Clean Out Ball] is given.
At midnight all celebration ends.
# - Ash Wednesday when Lent Begins -
See Easter Celebration
Can any of you add to these celebrations?
|* The holiday is always on this particular day.|
Other Christmas HolidayWeb Sites To Enjoy
If you find a link broken, please, let me know: Remmick@aol.com
Thread to stollen bread -
Holdiays and Holy days
A Religious Christmas
Christmas Traditions of Ukraine
Pennsylvania German's Christmas-Amish Country News
Medieval History - Christmas
Russian Christmas Tradtions / Kansas
Christmas Customs and Traditions
Origins of popular Christmas Traditions
Ancient Origins of the Holidays
German Culture- Christmas
German Cultures - Thread to German Christmas Information
Tatyana Gordeeva - German Culture Site
German Christmas Cookies:
Hubert Home Site