Learn German Christmas Traditions that Have Become Ours

Do you enjoy your Christmas traditions?

If you love decorating a Christmas tree or anticipating Santa appearing with gifts, thank German Christmas traditions. Many of our favorite traditions originated in Germany and and are the ones we celebrate today.

German Christmas tree

Probably the most well-known German Christmas tradition spread around the world is the Christmas tree. The first Christmas tree appeared in 1605 in Strasburg, Germany. Colored paper roses, apples, and wafers first hung on the tree serving as decorations.


German children leave letters for Santa just like American children. The difference is they leave their letters on their windowsill for Christkind. Christkind is a winged angel sent by the Christ child, dressed in white robes and a golden crown. Often, the children decorate their letters with glue and sugar to make them sparkle.

A traditional German Christmas is celebrated on 24th of December and called Heiligabend or Holy Eve. German families use this day to put up their Christmas tree and share a simple family meal of frankfurter sausages and potato salad. Afterwards, they have Bescherung which is German for ‘time for exchanging gifts’.

It is a German Christmas tradition for many families go to mass with children having a nativity play. One adult stays home and prepares the Christmas tree, putting the gifts under the tree. The room with the tree is locked when the children return from mass and they can’t go in to see the tree until a bell rings. The ringing of the bell means Christkind has left the presents.

Gifts are similar to those given in the United States but may also include plates of chocolates and cookies. Germans make a white dough called Christbaumgeback. They use this dough to make shapes and bake them for tree decorations. They are also known for their beautiful gingerbread houses. Dolls of fruit are also traditional Christmas toys.

Christmas carols

When the gifts have been exchanged and dinner eaten, families sing Christmas carols. Traditional German Christmas songs are O Tannenbaum more commonly known as O Christmas Tree. Others that are very well known in the United States are ‘Every Year Again’, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’, Tomorrow Santa’s Coming’. These songs and many others are sang by families on Holy Eve.

See how many German Christmas traditions get incorporated into our holiday celebrations. Seems to make the world a smaller place indeed!