To most Germans, Christmas (Weihnachten), means lots of cookies, music, gifts and, of course, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. But that's not all there is to the Christmas season.
Feathery snow, gaily decorated trees, ornate creches, jingling sleigh bells, brilliant nighttime skies, flickering candles, soaring carols—these are the Yule gifts that Germany awaits each year. There are few other countries anywhere that are so Christmas conscious. West Germany is an expansive sprawl of Alps and Black Forest, of seacoast and inland lakes, of meadows and rolling hills that has enough Christmas traditions per mile to fill a fleet of Santa's sleighs.
The country celebrates Christmas with a capital C. It has been this way for untold generations, since the first hardy missionaries ventured into the Teutonic wilderness, bringing the message of Christ's peace and love. War, famine, depression, and political turmoil have not been able to shake the German love affair with this most holy of holidays. The Germans have subsequently been more than willing to share their delightful exuberance with the rest of the world, and we've all been the better for it.
The excitement begins even as the first autumn leaves turn golden brown and drift to the ground, carpeting the landscape vvith their crunchv feel underfoot. The upbeat holiday feeling continues for months.
Germans build up to Christmas gradually, starting their celebration on Saint Martin's Day, the eleventh of November. This feast day honors a Roman soldier who shared his cloak with a shivering beggar. The impoverished man was actually the disguised Christ according to the wonderful legend. The tradition of gift giving, as exemplified by the concerned saint, has continued to this day, much to the delight of youngsters who are the principal beneficiaries of all the goodies. On that day, as well, in the regions of Eifel, Sauerland, Theingau, and Westerwald, children carry lanterns and torches through the winding village streets. At night, high on the hills over the towns, they will light the Martinmas fires; the blazes, signifying light and hope in the advent of winter, can be seen for miles.
Author Unknown. For Educational Purposes Only.
Christmas - no other celebration exerts such a far-reaching influence on all aspects of German life. Weeks, and even months, beforehand, entire branches of industry and commerce start to prepare for this time of year. It is as if public life in all its manifestations is moving towards these holy days. Since that is the case, everyone in our country is affected. No-one can escape the influence of this great festival. It is a celebration for everyone. Anyone who wants to get to know the Germans properly should therefore spend Christmas in Germany. The festival of Christmas is celebrated all over the world but nowhere else is this celebration so rich and profound as in Germany. It has survived all kinds of political developments. Attempts to change or do away with Christmas have failed miserably.