- How Do You Say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German?
- Christmas Traditions in Germany
- Important Dates for a German Christmas
How do you say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German? In this post we are going to learn how, plus I’ll also give you some insights into some of the German Christmas traditions.
If you’re not feeling Christmassy yet, Germany is the place to visit. For me, Germany is the most Christmassy country! From the world famous Christmas markets, to the Glühwein and Advent Calendars, it’s impossible not to get into the Christmas spirit when visiting this winter wonderland. Auf geht’s!
How Do You Say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German?
Translation: Merry Christmas!
Frohe Weihnachten is the most common way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German. You’ll hear it all the time around the festive season and see it on banners and Christmas decorations at the Christmas markets. Froh can mean joyful, gladly, cheery, joyous etc. Weihnachten is the German word for Christmas. It comes from the Middle High German word meaning ‘holy night’.
Translation: Merry / Happy Christmas!
In this case Fröhlich replaces Frohe but similarly means happy, jolly, merry etc.
Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr
Translation: Merry Christmas and a happy new year
The same long Christmas wish as we have in English. You’ll hear this throughout the Christmas period, especially between Christmas and new year.
Translation: A happy celebration!
Another common Christmas wish. You could also say Frohes Weihnachtsfest meaning ‘a happy Christmas celebration’.
Longer Christmas Wishes
German speakers frequently come up with longer phrases to produce a really warm Christmas wish. The adjective can be changed and there are endless variations you can come up with.
Fröhliche Weihnachten wünsche ich dir (I wish you a merry Christmas)
Ich wünsche dir fröhliche und entspannte Weihnachten (I wish you a joyous and relaxed Christmas)
Ich wünsche dir ein wundervolles Weihnachtsfest (I wish you a wonderful Christmas celebration)
Christmas Traditions in Germany
Now we know how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German, let’s take a look at some of the German Christmas traditions and important dates during the holiday season. You may be surprised to see that many of the world’s favourite Christmas traditions originated in Germany!
Adventskranz (Advent Wreath)
A common Christmas tradition in German speaking countries is the Adventskranz (Christmas wreath). They are often made from fir tree branches arranged with other decorative additions. Sometimes they are in a ring and sometimes they’re straight.
On the wreath are 4 large candles, the first Kerze (candle) is lit on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and begins the Advent season. On every following Sunday the next candle is lit. It is said to bring light in a dark season and to represent the joyous anticipation of the birth of Christ.
Adventskalendar (Advent Calendar)
Advent calendars are popular throughout countries that celebrate Christmas. But did you know they originated in Germany? A relatively new tradition, Advent calendars are around 100 years old and were invented to help make the wait for Christmas a little more bearable for children.
Usually made of card, there are 24 doors, one for each day leading to Christmas Eve. Each door is opened on the appropriate day and behind each door is a Christmas scene, or more recently a piece of chocolate.
Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets)
The German Weihnachtsmärkte are one of the big reasons to visit Germany at Christmas time. If you haven’t visited a Christmas Market before, I encourage you to experience one.
They are a truly magical winter wonderland with many stalls to buy gifts, Christmas decorations and sweet treats. There are often ice skating rinks plus Christmas lights, live music, food and endless Glühwein!
While you’re at a Weihnachtsmarkt, you won’t get far without coming across a Glühwein stall. Glühwein is a tradition German Christmas drink, similar to Mulled Wine. Made from warm red wine, sugar and spices, it’s a fantastic winter warmer for when you need to take a break when walking around the markets.
Tannenbaum (Christmas Tree)
Germany is credited with starting the tradition of the Christmas Tree (Tannenbaum or ‘Fir Tree’ in German). It is traditional for the Christmas tree to be decorated on 24th December, quite different to UK and US Christmas trees which appear early in December. However many households in Germany also decorate the Christmas tree earlier than the 24th.
Stollen is a traditional and popular German Christmas cake, so popular in fact that 2.5 million Stollen are sold in Germany every year. It’s made from flour, fruit, nuts and spices, often with marzipan and icing sugar. It’s so popular in the city of Dresden, that they have an annual Stollenfest (Stollen festival).
Lebkuchen is another traditional German sweet treat. It resembles gingerbread and contains ingredients including honey, flour, sugar, eggs, marzipan, nuts and various spices. The city of Nürnberg (Nuremburg) is the number one exporter of Lebkuchen around the world.
Sometimes they are smaller, cookie sized, decorated with icing or covered in chocolate. They are also sometimes much larger, shaped like hearts with colourful icing messages on them.
Whilst they are a Christmas tradition, you’ll often see the heart shaped Lebkuchen with the icing messages at all sorts of German festivals, fairs and carnivals.
Important Dates for a German Christmas
Nikolaustag (St. Nicholas Day)
Christmas festivities begin early in Germany. Nikolaustag is popular with children and takes place on the 6th December. On the evening of the 5th December children will polish their shoes or boots and leave them outside, hoping that St. Nikolaus will fill them with sweets and other goodies.
Who is St. Nikolaus?
St. Nikolaus is a mysterious historical figure. The story goes that he was a priest who shared his wealth with poor people and children in particular. He has a long white beard and wears red but is not to be confused with der Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas).
Who is Krampus?
Krampus is the evil counterpart to the good St. Nikolaus. A pagen creation intended to scare naughty children into behaving. Krampus is long-horned, demon-like creature who threatens to visit the homes of naughty children to punish them. Krampus is particularly influential in Austria and Bavaria.
Heiligabend (Christmas Eve)
Heiligabend is celebrated in Germany on the 24th December. It is half working day for most, with many people finishing work at lunchtime. The rest of the day is generally spent visiting relatives, wrapping and exchanging presents and for some households, decorating the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree).
Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day)
After Heiligabend, Germans celebrate 2 Christmas Days, because one just isn’t enough! 25th December is known as Erster Weihnachtstag (first Christmas Day) and the 26th December is known as, you’ve guessed it, Zweiter Weihnachtstag (second Christmas Day). This period is spent traveling to visit family further afield, exchanging presents and eating loads of food.
So now you know how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in German, and you also have an insight into a German Christmas. If you haven’t booked your flight to a German Christmas market yet, what are you waiting for?
If you enjoyed this post, there are many more posts in the How to Say … in German series.