What the heck is Christmas? Maybe you have seen the special decoration, the wonderful market in front of the town hall and the tall tree which stands in the middle of this market. Here in Germany, we love celebrating Christmas. It is the feast of love, family and being nice to other people. But of course, it has another more historic background.
So why exactly are we celebrating Christmas? Officially (or as the Christians believe), it is the birthday of Jesus Christ. This is why we sing songs like “Silent Night” (you can find the text in the next article, if you want to sing along). Maria and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, had to leave their home to go to Bethlehem – sometimes they are called refugees but actually, they weren’t. They had to go to the birthplace of Joseph for a census of population. But nevertheless, they had no place to sleep. So they knocked on many doors but no one was willing to let them in. Just one man was nice and gave them a place to sleep – a place in a barn. Maria was advanced in pregnancy with a very corpulent belly and in this night, Jesus Christ was born. It is said that a star rose above the stable and a handful of shepherd were waked by an angel who told them to visit the new born Messiah.
Actually, the story is much longer. But nevertheless, why are we still celebrating Christmas – even irreligious people? As I told you, Christmas is the celebration of love and family. We are celebrating together. And for a celebration you need light – a lot of glittering and splendid light. Therefore, we decorate our home, our streets and even ourselves with candles and electronic light (so-called “Lichterkette” or in English “fairy light”). It looks very beautiful when you walk in the streets and every window is illuminated with “Schwippbögen” (no, there is no English translation for that). “Schwippbögen” are typical Saxon and you can find them in nearly every window. A “Schwippbogen” is a wooden semi-circle with about seven candles and beautiful figures carved in it. It’s a non-religious sign, it’s just beautiful.
But nevertheless, of course we have more things to decorate our houses with. More than everything else we love our Christmas trees. They are fir trees or spruces – trees with needles. We love to decorate them with colourful Christmas tree balls and tinsel (some shiny and shimmering plastic strips – yeah, sounds less great than it actually is). Under the Christmas tree we place some presents for the people we celebrate with. And here, the interesting and stressful part of Christmas starts.
Presents! Everyone loves them. Christmas is the time to make a gift to the people you like. It doesn’t have to be something absolutely special. Sometimes, all you get are handmade sockets from your grandma. It doesn’t matter how great the gift is – it is something you receive from someone you love. That’s the real magic of Christmas. Stressful? Of course, because everyone wants to find the best presents. Therefore, we are running through the streets looking for the best thing to give away. Should it be stressful? Of course not. Sometimes, all your loved ones want, is you by their side. Christmas is the time to call distant relatives and sometimes to give strangers one smile more. Christmas is not about finding the best presents – because the best present to the world is you.
Okay, so much for that – but who are these creepy guys walking through the streets with their long white beards and red clothing with a red jelly bag cap and black boots? It is Santa Claus! Why do we have Santa Claus? Well, actually he has nothing to do with real Christmas. He is an invention of Coca Cola. Disaffected? Yeah, me too. Originally, the Christ Child brings the presents to the children and lays them under the tree. A few decades ago, the Christ Child was replaced by a guy who loves to fly around in his reindeer sleigh and brings the presents to the children – Santa Claus. Some children send their wishes to Santa and sometimes he makes them come true. Magical? Well, that’s Christmas.
You want to know what we eat on Christmas Eve? “Kartoffelsalat” (potato salad) and “Würstchen” sausages (they don’t have to contain pork, sometimes they are made with other meat or they’re vegetarian). Some people like it more expensive. Therefore, they prepare a dinner with roast duck or goose, “Kartoffelknödel” (dumplings) and some vegetables like beans, peas or “Sauerkraut” (sauerkraut, it’s the same word in English).
But wait – when exactly is Christmas? It starts … well, in late November. The 29th of November, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, was first advent. Advent is the time four weeks before Christmas until Christmas day. Every Sunday, we illuminate one candle more – hence, we have four candles to illuminate on Christmas. Some children have an Advent calendar where they’re allowed to open one door every day from the 1st of December to Christmas. Christmas Eve is on December 24th. The two days after (25th and 26th of December) are holidays, too. Please remember that all official buildings will be closed on these three days.
Christmas is a quite important time in Germany. It is the feast of family, love and being nice to other people. It is the time of magic and light. Just try to calm down and enjoy the time. It’s just once a year.