Christmas is coming soon and I am wondering whether there is anything German about this charming holiday. To my knowledge Jesus wasn’t born in Germany, the Christmas Carols as well as the motifs are from the US and the colors originate from Coca Cola! Our Christmas chocolate comes from Switzerland and the Christmas game, White Elephant, is derived from an American tradition. Even the yearly fights around the Christmas table are internationally ubiquitous. How wonderful to have such a great international holiday reflecting the close ties between the European and American culture. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be great to find something typically German, maybe a little something that shows that the Germans also contributed to the tradition.
What’s with the Christmas tree? Well, there are many who claim that it’s from Germany, but the evidence seems to some a bit fragile! And the Glühwein/ mulled wine? You can enjoy it everywhere in Germany during the Christmas season, but it appears to have roots in the ancient world and the Scandinavians are proud of their Glögg which is also a form of mulled wine!
Can this be possible? Isn’t there anything exclusively German? When I was just about to give up my desperate search, my eyes wandered through our Christmas-decorated living room, and focused on the Advent calendar! Fantastic, if this could be German, I would be the happiest man alive. And further research in fact shed light on the exclusive German heritage of the Advent calendar! It was invented by Gerhard Lang and at the beginning called the Christmas Calendar. Why did he do it? It was actually his mother! It is said that Gerhard Lang drove his mom up the wall with his impatience in the face of the Christmas build-up: “How many days left until Christmas, mom???” As a result she came up with a calendar that could help her son count the days himself. Years later, and all grown up, Lang then brought the calendar to the masses. Nowadays Advent calendars are filled with chocolate, toys, lottery tickets and some particularly special versions are available in German sex shops.
Sadly, the idea of sweetening the time up until Christmas by hanging up a calendar didn’t work for me and my brothers when we were young. We used to eat the chocolate pre-emptively and then complain that it had been stolen. My brother once ate all his chocolates on the 1st of December, arguing that in this way Christmas would be preponed to the 2nd. Needless to say, this attempt of rewriting the calendar didn’t succeed. My brother ended up with an upset stomach and got scolded by our mom.