I am living here in the countryside of Bavaria, and old traditions are still here. And Christmas time is a wonderful time to celebrate and repeat them year by year. I love to have repetitions, they give me comfort and a link between my grandparents, my childhood and my family now. And my country, it is great when everyone is doing the same at some times and every one knows what you are talking about.
So maybe I am telling you now things you are also doing in your country, then please forgive me for not knowing it.
Let me start with the Advents wreath. It presentes the 4 weeks before the Christmas evening. Traditional he is made out of fir, has always 4 red candles and every sunday you are counting down the weeks to Christmas by lighting the candles. I mean, the first Advent sunday has one candle burning, the second two and so on. All 4 candles are burning on the sunday before Christmas or like this year on Christmas itself.
The first weekend of the Advent is also the start of Christmas time here in Germany, that means although you can find mountains of Lebkuchen at the shops in September, only now the shop windows are decorated with Christmas trees, the Christmas songs are played everywhere and the Christkindl-markets are opened.
At the 6th of December is the Nikolausday. Saint Nikolaus was a holy man, a bishop, and he loved children very much. In my childhood he still was a bishop, nowadays he is more dressed like Santa Claus. But Nikolaus is NOT the Weihnachtsmann, which means Santa Claus!
At this special evening he is visiting every child, he has a golden book in which is written down how the child behaved during the last year. And he knows everything, the good and the bad. For having a long white beard his visit is mostly done by an uncle or the father itself and children are always listening with a mix between fear and respect when he is reading aloud all your sins. He is a really good man, so no child has to be afraid of him, he forgives everything but is also giving the children rebukes. Sometimes, in case of really bad behaving children, he is accompanied by Knecht Rupprecht, or Krampus like we say here in Bavaria. This is a wild man, dressed in a dark fur coat and with a rod. He never hurts children in real life, but naughty ones are very very silent when seeing him wagging it. And maybe he is the only one to keep children well behaving for some days.
So either the Saint Nikolaus is coming in "real" at this evening and is giving the children also some presents, just tiny things like chocolate and socks or a book or new pencils, or if he is in a hurry and cannot come by itself, he is filling the shoes of the children. Not the socks, the schoes. To be discovered by them at the next morning.
And now we are coming to the most important person here for Christmas, the Christkind. Above being German I am Bavarian, and we don´t have the Weihnachtsmann, which is comparable to your Santa Claus I think. I really have to say "I think", cause I don´t now. We don´t have him here in Bavaria.
So the Christkind is our representative for the Holy Evening. It is no child and no adult, neither male nor female, no angel, nobody knows exactly who it is. Yes, the Christkind is "it", not she or he. It is always blonde, young and beautiful. Some say it is the young Christ, some it is the angel of announcement, but all this explanation are unsufficient. For us the Christkind is simply the Christkind. Nowone has ever seen it, it is coming down from the heaven to bring joy and peace and of course the Christmas tree and the presents.
And here we are, at the Holy Evening. That means the 24th of December. At this day, and only at this day the Christmas tree is brought into the house, mostly at the sitting/living room. In Germany there are no Christmas trees in the house before this date, although the plain trees are bought earlier and kept outside to keep it fresh. Then, when it is set up in the house, the door of the room is locked, so no children is allowed to go into it, cause now the Christkind is coming and with the help of its angel it is embellishing the tree and bringing the presents. Mostly the father is then collecting the children for a walk, while the mothers are embellishing the tree.
The traditional colours for Christmas and the Christmas time in Germany are green and red and gold, and so are the colours for the tree. It should have beeswax candles, red apples and bows, golden balls and nuts, straw stars and everything glimmering and shimmering. The apples are always smelling wonderful and so are the candles. When everything is done and the children/adults have waited impatiently enough, the Christkind is ringing a bell, a sign that it is leaving now and the family could come to see the beautiful tree. Everyone is proper dressed, the candles are burning, the electric light is switched off, the music is playing and the family is standing or sitting in front of the tree and singing. Then the big distribution of Christmas presents starts, mostly the whole family is together at this evening, I mean the parents, grandparents, children, and sometimes also aunts and uncles and cousins. The meal at this evening is simple, a lot of Germans are eating simple sausages with potatoe salad to keep the women away from spending too much time with cooking, and in a lot of families it is the only evening of the year where the TV stays switched off, it all about talking and laughing and playing games and reading Christmas stories. At about 10 pm the Christmette (Christmass) is starting, so a good opportunity to have a small walk with refreshing air, to move from the sofa to the church bench and although during the year the churches are empty, just a few people are going to church on sundays, at the Holy Evening the churches are crowded. I love it so much when at the end of the mass the lights were switched off, only the very big Christmas tree is illuminated, and the whole crowd is singing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" (Silent Night, Holy Night). And when you are walking home again, and the sky is clear and you could see the stars, then it´s time for a special, secret wish. It is a night, where animals can talk and it is also a night where it would be kind to put some extra food for the animals (and the elfs and dwarfs) outside in the garden.
The next two days are also holidays in Germany, two days with a lot of eating, talking, playing with new toys, watching old movies on TV, two very nice and relaxing days.
And now I would love so much to hear how you are spending Christmas time in your country and your family. What are you doing at the evening of the 24th december - are you staying awake all night and drink bowls of egg-flip like to be seen in english/american movies? Is it true that you already now have the Christmas tree in your house? Is the Advent wreath just German? Do you also have Christmas markets in your country? I really want to know it all, please tell me.