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The most wonderful Christmas traditions

Traditions to remember and rediscover during the Advent season

Every year we look forward to this special time of the year – the Advent season. No other time of the year is filled with such a variety of traditions and Christmas customs that have developed over many centuries and are still cultivated year after year. Whether it is singing Christmas carols, opening doors of the Advent calendar, burning incense in the twelve nights between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, baking delicious biscuits or traditionally decorating the Christmas tree – the Christmas season is made even more festive with these characteristic customs.

Today we present some of the most beauitful Christmas traditions, tell you where they came from and how they are still practiced today. Perhaps there will also be one or the other tradition to be rediscovered, which will ensure even more Christmas spirit and brighten children’s eyes!

24 little doors on the Advent calendar

Whether child or adult – the anticipation of opening the 24 doors on the Advent calendar is great. 24 little surprises shorten the wait for Christmas Eve. A variety of calendars has developed over the past few years – whether sweet, savory, filled with teas, cosmetics, candles, fragrances or even spirits, there is no end to creativity. Sales also begin early in September or October, which makes some people even more excited. But printed advent calendars with pictures are still popular today and some are even reusable. This variant of tear-off calendars or Christmas clocks are the forerunners of today’s calendar and the origin goes back to the middle of the 19th century. The publisher Gerhard Land from Munich brought out the first printed Advent calendar with the name ‚In the Land of the ‚Christ Child‘‘ in 1903.

Singing Christmas Carols

Singing Chistmas carols dates back to the Middle Ages. During the Christmas liturgy, priests sang songs that told the story of Christmas. In the course of the Reformation, church goers were also involved in the singing, and songs in German were written. Martin Luther’s song ‚Vom Himmel hoch‘ is one of the most popular Christmas songs. In the 19th century it became a custom within the family to sing Christmas carols and play music together. During this tme, the well-known song ‚Leise rieselt der Schnee‘ was released. The melody to ‚Oh Christmas Tree‘ dates back to the 16th century, and in 1919 and 1924 the text was added. Probably the most famous Christmas carol in the world is ‚Silent Night, Holy Night!‘, which was performed for the first time in 1818 in the St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf near Salzburg by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr.

Burning incense during the twelve nights between Christmas Eve and Epiphany

For many centuries, people had to adapt to new environmental conditions, accept new challenges and face the laws of nature. At the same time, the practice of ancient traditions and incense rituals from the Celtic era was never forgotten. On the so-called ‚Rauchnächte‘-nights from 24 to 25 December, on New Year’s Eve on 31 December and on the night before the celebration of the Three Kings on 6 January – this is the custom and is still practiced in many households today, where the house, farm and yard is smoked out by burning incense. The entire family walks through every room of the house with a cast-iron incense pan complete with embers, incense and herbs. No one should be absent form this ritual, lest it could bring bad luck. Then a rosary is said.

Incense can also be used as an ancient healing practice to kill pathogens, disinfect the air in the home, or create a comforting atmosphere. A wide variety of dried herbs can be used for this purpose, such as:

  • Juniper: the smoke from buring juniper has a cleansing and disinfecting effect (do not use ornamental juniper, most species are poisenous)
  • St. John’s wort: has a positive effect on our psyche, mood-enhancing, consciousness-expanding
  • Yarrow: helps with abdominal pain and has an overall balancing effect
  • Vervain: sharpens the mind and creates a peaceful mood
  • Roses: create a relaxed atmosphere and inner balance
  • Angelica: for spiritual strengthening and against anxieties
  • ‚Dost‘ (wild majoram and oregano): has a particularly mood-enhancing effect, ensures relaxation and, as a tea alleviates the symptoms of various diseases

Marvellous Christmas Bakery

The scent of freshly baked biscuits is something unique. As a child, you could not wait for grandmother to bake delicious cookies for the first time – one of the most popular traditions of Christmas time. In some families the sweet treats are already available during the Advent season, while other families only enjoy the delicious cookies on Christmas Eve. Until the middle of the 19th century, only the upper class could indulge in it because the ingredients were too expensive. Today baking biscuits is a widespread tradition among young and old. Whether gingerbread, cinnamon stars, Vanilla horseshoe-shaped biscuits, Speculatius, Florentines, Hussar fritters, Coconut Kisses, Linzer Stars, shortbread or shortcrust biscuits – recipe ideas are almost endless.

Decorating the Christmas tree

Many families look forward to this festive custom with great anticipation too. Did you know that the history of the Christmas tree dates back to the 16th century and was put up by the municipal guilds? This tradition first spread among the aristocratic circles, from the beginning of the 18th century also among the bourgeousie and in the course of the 19th century the Christmas tree became a fixed part of the decoration in all social classes. According to the Tree of Paradise, Christmas trees were adorned with apples and sweets and were also known as ‚sugar trees‘. Today baubles, stars, bells and angels in all colour variations, shapes and materials are an integral part of Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree is traditionally set up and decorated either on 23 December or in the morning on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve: giving presents and Christmas dinner

The time has finally come – Christmas Eve is here! On this mysterious evening, the ‚Christkind‘ brings presents to the children without ever having been sighted. In some countries, the gifts are brought by Santa Claus, who surprises children all over the world with gifts from the North Pole. When the bell rings, everyone can enter the room, where the festively decorated Christmas tree awaits. Before the lovingly wrapped gifts are unwrapped, many families sing together or read a Christmas story. Now the Christmas dinner is enjoyed together at the festively set table. No expense or effort is spared on this day to conjure up a particularly delicious meal. Since Christmas Eve is considered a day of fasting in Christian tradition, it was customary in the past to eat only a light meal on this day. Even today, this tradition is preserved in many families and the actual feast is not until 25 December.

Many more customs and traditions

There are many other customs and traditions related to the Christmas season that are still practiced by people all over the world today. Internationally there are various Christmas traditions and Christmas Eve is also celebrated differently from country to country. However, the harmonious Advent season has one thing in common everywhere – it is a very special, even magical time that we look forward to anew every year!

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