Advent Traditions in Germany

Christmas in Germany is considered to be the major holiday of the year by most German families. It may be more commercialised than it used to be but the period is still rooted in tradition. One of the most loved of the Christmas customs is that of Advent.

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas which means that the first Sunday of advent can fall as early as the 27thNovember or as late as the 3rd December. For Christians it marks the coming of Jesus to the world (advent means coming in Latin). The month leading up to Christmas day is held as a special time for reflection and preparation. Monks as far back as 567AD fasted during advent and in some orthodox churches this practice continues to this day.

Advent Calendars - Adventskalender

Advent calendars are common place in many parts of the world at this time of year but did you know that the first calendar was created in Germany? Protestants during the nineteenth century would add chalk lines to their doors to count the days leading up to Christmas Eve. This practice evolved into an advent clock which was a circle made from branches which held twenty four candles. For each day of advent that went by a candle was lit. This illuminating and beautiful ritual continues across Germany although with a less hazardous number of candles.

The first printed advent calendar was most certainly produced in Germany around 1903 although there are conflicting accounts of where and when.. A newspaper called the 'Neues Tagblatt Stuttgart' included a free printed advent calendar for their readers in 1904 and this is often referred to as the first calendar. A gentleman called Gerhard Lang could also have produced the very first calendar around the same time. One thing is for sure though, advent calendars are a German invention. They gained popularity across Germany and many of the calendars were mass produced by Lang until World War Two when cardboard became scarce. After the war the calendars emerged again and by the fifties the first chocolate filled versions were being sold.

These days there are a variety of types of advent calendar available in Germany from the chocolate versions to hand crafted novelty calendars.

Do you want to count down the days to Christmas with us? On our Facebook Advent Calendar we explore a German proverb and it's origin every day from now to the 24th December.

Advent wreaths are the modern day take on the advent clock. The wreath holds four big candles each one symbolic of the four Sundays of advent. Sometimes a middle candle is added to represent Jesus and is lit on Christmas Day. Each Sunday families across Germany get together and light a candle. They sing German carols and tell stories. German churches may also have an advent wreath although a single large candle may be used with the days marked along the side. The candle is lit on the first Sunday of advent and burns out on Christmas Eve.

Make your own quick and easy advent wreath

What you will need:

  • A large ornate plate or shallow fruit bowl

  • A few sprigs of fir, spruce or holly

  • Tac or play dough

  • 4 or 5 candles ( in Catholicism the first 3 candles are purple to represent hope, preparation & love, the 4rd is rose to celebrate joy, the 5th is white to represent purity. Protestants often use 4 red candles)

  • Ribbon – optional

How to make your wreath:

  • Trim the sprigs of greenery to workable lengths – no more than 10 cm

  • Place large pieces of tac or dough to the base of each candle

  • Evenly space 4 candles around the plate and firmly push into location

  • Stick the central candle down

  • Weave the greenery around the outer edge of the plate using tac to stick in place where necessary. Add extra sprigs between the candles so that the dish is covered

  • Adding a ribbon or bow is a nice finishing touch although not necessary

Next week we will find out about another German Christmas tradition and we will share another fabulous festive treat recipe with you.

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