Cultural Traditions

The traditions and descriptions below have been gathered from


The last four weeks before Christmas, Germans celebrate Advent, a romantic and delightful time of the year, which is strongly linked to fine tradition.

Advent calendars, were first printed in Germany in 1908. They're the calendars with a month's worth of treats hidden behind little paper doors. And even St. Nicholas himself, originally a 4th century bishop in Asia Minor, was first recognized in Germany. He became the patron of sailors, merchants, bakers, children and students. But in Germany, he comes on December 6th, not the 25th, and leaves his gifts in children's shoes.

Gingerbread and Nutcrackers

Before the Nutcracker became a Tchaikovsky ballet, he was the hero of an 1816 story by Berlin's Ernst Theodor Amadeus (E.T.A.) Hoffman.

The gingerbread house has a similar beginning. It first appeared in the Grimm brothers' tale of Hänsel and Gretel, then in Humperdinck's short opera about the two lost children. It became a Christmas tradition in German opera houses soon after its world premiere on December 23, 1893.

Christmas Carols

"Away in a Manger," is composed of 15th century words by Martin Luther. "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," is a 19th century melody by Felix Mendelssohn. "Still, Still, Still," is also German, about 1800. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" was first written down in German in 1588 and "O Christmas Tree" ("O Tannenbaum"), written down in 1799. And of course, "Silent Night".

The Easter Bunny

From the name to the bunny, it's all German. The name Easter was first appropriated by the Christian calendar. But first it was a pagan festival Ostara, celebrated on the vernal equinox, around March 21 in the Northern hemisphere. Ostara was named for the pagan goddess of spring, Eostre.

According to legend, she once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could lay eggs. And so it became the Easter Bunny

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