It is funny how different people around the world celebrate Christmas. I wouldn’t say that the way how we celebrate in our family is a traditional German way, it is just our way. But I recently read a piece on exactly this subject and it was quite similar to what we do every single year. I have 3 siblings and even before my nephew was born, we celebrated the same way every single Christmas, no matter how old we were.
The Germans start celebrating on Christmas Eve, that‘s also when we get our presents. And my presents were never brought by Santa Claus, i get mine from the „Christkind“ aka baby Jesus.
I know it sounds weird to others but our Christmas tree is brought up only the night before Christmas Eve. Once my younger Siblings went to bed that night, my Mum & brother put up the tree and Mum & I decorated it. We also put up bed sheets to cover the Window and the glass door of our living room. After all was set, the door was locked until the Christkind came. This also means no TV on Christmas Eve, because the door is locked…
Still we all come together in the afternoon of the 24th, that includes my Mum, my 3 siblings, my sister-in-law and my nephew, plus an variable amount of close friends or partners. We prepare dinner together, fried sole (fish) with my grandaunts (she owned a fish restaurant) tartar sauce, potatoes and a side salad. It is a rather unusual Christmas dinner, but unlike in other countries there is not one single dish that every German family eats on Christmas. I know a lot of people have Wiener sausages with potato salad (which is kind of a German Christmas classic) or goose with red cabbage & dumplings, my in-laws have Raclette on Christmas Eve, others do fondue. You can see, there is a large variety of dishes and 3 days of Christmas make room to eat a lot of them…
Once dinner is ready and we all over-ate, we clear the table and do the dishes together, the „kids“ go off to play some games upstairs. I know we are all grown up, but even before my nephew was born we played the same silly old game every Christmas. The first time the Mister spend Christmas with us, he was really terrified by us playing „Schnipp Schnapp“. It is a card game that comes with a lot of noise and yelling when we play on Christmas Eve, because you need to be quick and when that doesn’t help you need to be louder than the others. Sometimes it is even so noisy that we can‘t hear the bell that rings once Elvis (the Christkind) has left the building.
All of a sudden, the door to the living room is not locked any more – surprise- and all candles on the tree are burning (yeah, real candles!). You can catch a first glance of your presents, but there are still some more obstacles to tackle before you can start to unpack. My mother makes us sing (and so did my Grandpa) Christmas Carols before the main attraction. Once she finds it to be ok, the first can start to unwrap presents following some simple rules: Only 1 person unwraps 1 gift at a time (usually without destroying the paper, but the Mister taught my Mum that ironing gift wrap is unsexy and unnecessary), starting from the youngest to the oldest. That is the part when my older brother starts complaining about the wait and explains how much better his life was, when he was a single-child. Once my Mum finished unpacking, the official part is over, we have dessert and Christmas cookies.
I know it sounds weird because we are all grown up, even before my nephew was born, we ran the same routine every single Christmas. Even none of us believed in the Christmas any more, the room was locked, presents were secretly placed underneath the tree. This is how Christmas in my family always was and always will be.
This Christmas is the first Christmas in our new home. Though our open-plan kitchen/dining/living room doesn‘t allow us to lock the door, but the tree is put up on 23rd as every year. My family comes round in the afternoon and we prepare dinner together, before we play a round of Schnipp Schnapp until the Christkind-Bell rings and we can sing Christmas Carols and unwrap our presents. And I wouldn‘t want to have it any other way!