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German Season Greetings and Customs

German NutcrackersChristmas is a long season in Germany. Beginning on the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew's Day (November 30th) and continuing to Christmas Day. This period, known as "Advent," marks the anticipated coming of Christ.

Many homes will display Adventskranz (Advent wreaths), either hanging from the ceiling or sitting on a table. The wreath traditionally has a candle for each Sunday in Advent.

In German-speaking countries, to extend greetings for a Merry Christmas one says:

Fröhliche Weihnachten! (Froe-lick-e Vy-nach-ten) or rohe Festtage! (Fro-e Fest-tag-e)

The "Weihnachtsmarkt" (Vy-nachts-markt), or Christmas Market, is a popular and traditional institution in many German cities and towns; Christmas crafts and small gifts are sold, and one can keep warm with the hot drinks available at the market.

At New Year's, one says:

Ein glückliches neues Jahr (Ein glook-lick-es noy-ess Yahr)! or Ein glückliches Neujahr (Ein glook-lick-es Noy-yahr)!
And one can even wish someone a "Guten Rutsch!" (goo-ten Roo-tsch), a "good slide" into the new year.

New Year's Eve and the New Year holiday, generally, are referred to as "Silvester" (Zil-ves-ter) referring to Pope Silvester I who was/is the "Saint of the Day" (December 31st). According to tradition, the day is good for divining the future, and evil spirits, demons, etc., are driven away by wearing masks and disguises and by making noise and firing shots. This helps explain why fireworks and firework displays are a tradition in Germany on New Year's Eve.


© Kathryn Buck

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