Last year, I spent my year abroad in the Saxony region in Germany, meaning I got to enjoy all the German festivities in the build-up to Christmas. This included the Christmas markets, the food, the events and all else it entailed; and it’s safe to say it was truly amazing. However was it amazing enough to beat the English Christmas I hold dear to my heart? So here I am to answer, do the Germans really do Christmas better than us?
So the Christmas markets are an obvious one to start the comparison with. The Christmas markets in Germany were truly magical and absolutely everywhere; they were not only in the big cities but even in the smallest of towns – like where I worked, which only had 15,000 inhabitants. They all have the traditional Glühwein (mulled wine) stalls and each city has its own personalised mugs for their unique Christmas market. Plus there is a range of food and gift stalls and to top it all off, there are big ornamental Christmas decorations dotted around the markets and joyful music played everywhere. Within the depths of a cold German winter, it was absolutely wonderful to be able to escape to the Christmas markets whenever we wanted; especially since they were open every single day! And of course getting to drink a warm Glühwein or grab a tasty snack was a massive bonus that puts you right in the christmas spirit.
The decorations are individual to each region, and even each city. Where I was based used to be a mining town and one of their main decorations were archways with candles all along its arch and were placed in windows. People typically used to put them in every window of their house and they represented the miners who didn’t get to see daylight for long periods of time; the sentimental touch of putting them in the windows was to guide the miners home. In addition to this adorable tradition, there were big rotating pyramids in the markets and big traditional nutcrackers. Their taste in Christmas decorations is quite different to ours, and overall I’d have to say that they are slightly more tasteful.
Advent: Every German knows when the advent time begins and for those who don’t know when that is (I had no clue before either) it’s four Sundays before Christmas. This is when the Christmas markets generally start and also marks the beginning of celebrations in the build-up to Christmas. During this time, the Germans celebrate St Nikolaus, which is on the 6th December. All the children leave their shoes outside their doors and in the night, St Nikolaus comes and leaves sweets in their shoes if they’ve been good. So I guess it’s a bit like our stockings, but just a few weeks earlier. They also have advent calendars like us but they don’t share in our tradition of sending Christmas cards, which I think is a shame since cards are always nice to jazz up your room with!
Food: So I know you’ve all been desperate to know about the most important bit: the food of course! So there is a really wide variety of food at the Christmas markets in Germany; from burgers to cakes to noodles to waffles, it’s endless.
My favourite savoury dish had to be the ‘Dresdener Handbrot’, which is a soft doughy type of bread roll that was baked in an oven with cheese and different fillings inside. You then add a little sour cream and herb sauce on top – so when you’re out in the cold this is absolutely divine.
Let me not forget the wonders of ‘Lebkuchen’, which are like ginger biscuits but less crunchy. These were often given out with Glühwein to dunk in them, and together they make a beautiful combo.
A lot of Germans also bake ‘Plätzchen’, which are basically Christmas biscuits. They prioritise the time to bake and decorate the biscuits together as a family or amongst friends. I did this with my flat in Germany last year, which was really lovely.
Unfortunately for Germany, I wouldn’t really rate their Christmas dinner, at least not the one I had in my region, Saxony. Their dinner consisted of goose with dumplings and red cabbage. Although they do it very nicely, I would not want to exchange my lovely turkey roast with all the trimmings for theirs any day soon.
Conclusion: So all in all, Christmas is an wonderful time in Germany. However it can definitely be argued that some places in the country are more magical than others for this time of year, so choose carefully. Germans really do seem to have a sense of tradition and they like to incorporate the idea of family and togetherness a lot during the season, which I really like. Even in England we are starting to adopt a few of their traditions with the markets and seasonal snacks, so clearly they are doing something right. However we still do differ quite a bit and although I love Christmas at home, I do feel Germany do the build-up to Christmas far better than we do. Overall they really make winter seem like a much happier and nicer time when you’re out in the bitter coldness. When it comes to the big Christmas dinner, I wouldn’t trade our British roast for anything. Mainly I just wouldn’t trade being able to spend the season at home with my family, which is definitely the best thing about Christmas.