Christmas Traditions in Ireland and Germany
Winter is Coming
December is here. It’s crazy how fast this year went. It actually feels like yesterday when I had a look on my calendar and it was December 2015. But even if I’m a little bit sad that 2016 will be over soon I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas and the new year.
Especially for the upcoming time, I thought it would be fun to compare a little bit of the German and Irish Christmas.
Because every family celebrates Christmas differently, I will tell you now how my family celebrates. Many people (including my friends) probably don’t celebrate Christmas like we do, because of different Christmas traditions.
Before Christmas Time
In my family we have a lot of Christmas traditions which start when the winter is coming. We start to decorate our house and write letters to the Christkind to tell him what we wish for Christmas. On the 1st of December the Advent time is starting and we get a calendar with Christmas scenery. There we can open a small door and discover a new picture every day until Christmas eve.
We call the last four Sundays before Christmas Advent Sundays. We go to church in the morning and at home we have an Advent wreath. There we light a candle every new Sunday. In the beginning it’s only one candle and on Christmas eve all four candles are shining.
Many Germans love Christmas markets. They go there whenever they have time, drink mulled wine, enjoy the Christmas feeling and can see if they find nice presents or decorations. The good thing is, if you are not in your hometown you can find one everywhere nearby. They are really popular in Germany.
A regional tradition from my mother’s home region is that Saint Barbara comes in the night between the 3rd and the 4th of December and puts sweets, nuts and mandarins in our neatly polished shoes. This tradition is rarely practiced. More common is that on the 6th of December Saint Nicholas comes and brings us a plate full of sweets, nuts, mandarins and sometimes a small present. In some families Saint Nicholas comes at night and put his gifts in the shoes like Saint Barbara does.
Christmas in Germany
One or two days before Christmas we rearrange our living room to make space for the Christmas tree and the nativity scene. We also start to decorate our living room with some small angel figurines and incense smokers. The Christmas tree will be decorated secretly without the children seeing.
On Christmas eve we go to church in the afternoon to watch a nativity play, played by children, and sing some of the Christmas carols. When we get home we will sing some more Christmas carols and wait for the Christkind to ring a bell. This is usually the sign that all the candles are lightning.
We celebrate Christmas not only to get our Christmas presents. After we got our presents we will eat our Christmas dinner.
The 25th (First Christmas Holiday) and the 26th (Second Christmas Holiday) of December we can relax, visit grandparents and other family or friends.
On the 6th of January children dress up as the wise men and will go from door to door to collect money for charity.
Before Christmas Time
In Ireland you start to get in the right mood for Christmas around mid November, when the city starts to decorate the streets with the Christmas lights, it’s getting colder and you can drink mulled wine.
You start to decorate your house with the Christmas tree (which is mostly a real one and will stay for probably one month), Christmas stockings, fairy lights and other small decorations all over the house in the end of November or early December.
Advent is different for everybody. If you eat a chocolate every morning or only open a new door of your Advent calendar, it’s different in every household. The Advent calendars are mostly not religious and can be with a picture, chocolate or little gifts in it.
Children write letters to Santa to tell him what they wish for Christmas and on Christmas eve people leave a brandy and some cookies out for Santa, so he can have something to eat and drink and a carrot for Rudolph.
Christmas in Ireland
The 24th of December is a relaxing day in Ireland. People stay at home and take the chance to watch Christmas movies. Christmas Day is the 25th. It’s the day when you usually visit your family, unpack your presents and enjoy your time. Some people go to a pub in the evening of the 26th. But for most people it’s important to be with their family.
On the 26th of December it’s also Wren Day. Traditionally, people dressed up in masks, straw suits, and colourful motley clothing and form a music band. They collect money from the townspeople and donate it afterwards.
Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas is on the 6th of January. Traditionally, men take on the household duties while women can go out and have fun. It’s also the date when the Christmas tree will be taken down.
I hope you enjoy the Irish December and the Christmas time!