Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Froehiliche Weihnachten"
Location: Western Europe
Tree Type: Traditional

- Germany was the first country to use glass ornaments as decorations. These ornaments are usually made by local families and sold in winter markets. These markets are held at the beginning of the advent season. These markets features hundreds of booths that sell Christmas decorations, candy and gingerbread.

Germany's Christmas season begins with Advent about four weeks before Christmas Eve. Families count the time until Christmas with advent wreaths and calendars, lighting one candle each Sunday. Nikolaustag, or Saint Nicholas' Day, on December 6 marks another festivity of German Christmas preparations. Children set their shoes by the door or window before bedtime in anticipation of St. Nicholas' nighttime visit. In some parts of Germany, he is accompanied by a mischievous assistant called Krampus or Knecht Ruprecht. This assistant fills the shoes good children with goodies and the shoes of naughty children with twigs.

Most towns have traditional Christmas markets, often known as "Christkindlsmarkt," where shoppers can buy Christmas goodies, gifts, and decorations. Most of these markets are unique, as many places only allow local artists and tradesmen to sell their products.

Christmas Eve is a special and exciting time for German families. Traditionally, children are not allowed to see the decorated Christmas tree until the Bescheerung, or tree lighting ceremony. While the children are occupied in another room, either Father Christmas or the family matriarch decorates the tree with candles, tinsel, fruit, candy, and family treasures. When children hear the bell ring to announce the arrival of Christmas, they rush to the tree to open presents, sing carols, and enjoy time with family.

Christmas meals in Germany are often so extravagant that Christmas Eve has come to be known as Dickbauch, or ‘Fat Stomach.' They may include suckling pig, roast goose, Christstollen (long loaves of bread baked with nuts, raisins, and dried fruit), Lebkuchen (spice bars), Reisbrei (sweet cinnamon), and Dresden Stollen (moist bread filled with fruit). It is said that anyone who has not eaten well will be haunted by demons during the night. However, with the celebrations in Germany that stretch from Advent and Saint Nicholas' Day to the Christmas markets and "Fat Stomach," it's unlikely that the demons will be able to harass anyone on Christmas Eve.

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