Advent — Getting into holiday spirit

Photo by Romolo Tavani/

Advent, advent A cheerful holiday season

Advent is a very special time full of century-old traditions and modern customs in Germany. The noun “advent” refers to ‘a coming into place, view or being; arrival.’ More commonly the term is used to describe the season and the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

Advent wreath

One of the older customs is that of the “Adventskranz,” a wreath bound out of fir branches and decorated with four candles. The first candle is lit on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas, this year it takes place on Nov. 27. The second candle is lit on the following Sunday and so forth until Christmas.

A children’s song goes like this: “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt. Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier. Dann steht das Christkind an der Tür!” (Advent, Advent, a light is burning. First one, then two, then three, then four. Then the Christ Child is at the door!)

In the Pfalz region the Christ Child also bakes cookies. There is a saying that if the sky turns red or pink in the morning or evening during the Advent season, then the Christ Child is busy baking Christmas cookies. Guten Appetit!

Advent calendar

Another fun-filled tradition, especially loved by younger (and maybe even older) children is the Advent calendar. The calendar can be store bought filled with chocolate, sweets or other small surprises or just as well be homemade using small jute sacks, colorful boxes, cloth pockets sewn onto textile backgrounds or in any other creative style. The individual days are marked with numbers from one to 24 and starting on Dec. 1, the recipient can open one “door” and find a surprise to sweeten the waiting time and countdown to Christmas.

St. Nicholas

Dec. 6 marks the arrival of St. Nicholas who visits children and fills their freshly shined shoes with small presents such as chocolate, fruits, nuts or small toys. The tradition dates to the fourth century when Bishop Nicholas of Myra (now in Turkey) brought fruits, nuts and tangerines to poor families.

Wish list for the Christ Child (or Santa)

Children that would like to send their holiday wishes to a “designated representative,” such as the Christ Child in Germany or possibly to Santa Claus, can do so using the Wish List on page 12.

Christmas Markets

The Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlsmarkt are not to be forgotten, which take place in towns and cities around the country. One of the most famous markets is the Weihnachtsmarkt in Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, but other venues, such as medieval markets taking place in castles have become popular in recent years. The Christmas market in Kaiserslautern near Stiftskirche and Schillerplatz will be held from Nov. 21 to Dec. 23. The annual Cultural Market, located within the Fruchthalle is taking place from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18.

Cheerfully decorated wooden booths offer handcrafted gifts, decorations, toys, candles and ornaments. Delicious Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Rostbratwurst, crepes and sweets will let your mouth water and drinks such as spicy Glühwein (mulled wine), punch and hot chocolate will keep visitors warm on cold winter evenings, while the aroma of cinnamon, cloves and oranges, and scented candles will lift you into the holiday spirit.

Cheerfully decorated cities

Shops, streets and private houses are brightly decorated with lights, decorated indoor and outdoor trees and colorful ornaments as in many other countries around the world. Glamorously decorated stores are packed with presents to be bought, gifts to be wrapped and special seasonal dishes are on offer.

Heiligabend /Christmas Eve

Finally, on Christmas Eve, families traditionally meet for a light dinner and wait for the gentle tingling of a bell. This marks the arrival of the Christkind (Christ child) or the Weihnachtsmann (similar to Santa Claus) who brings children gifts. Some families sing Christmas carols together, others might visit a church service, while it has become popular for the younger folks to head out to Christmas parties after exchanging gifts.