How Germany celebrates November

How Germany celebrates November
© Pixabay

Light in The Dark

November is a month we often overlooked between the golden days of October and the golden lights of Christmas. But in Germany, this month does not disappoint. See how international and national occasions are observed in the following article:

Halloween and Remembering The Dead in Germany

In America, costumes and pumpkins come out on 31 October for Hallowe’en, a festival of ghosts and spooky things. At the start of November, Mexico marks its famous *Day of the Dead* celebrations, lasting a full three days. When the days get shorter and the nights get darker, Germany also takes a few moments to remember those that have passed.

Of course, the influence of American culture and commerce hasn’t gone unnoticed. These days, children in big cities might ask for *Süßes oder Saures* (something sweet or something sour, an adaptation of Trick or Treating) and you’ll definitely see the pumpkin theme in bigger department stores.

Even though the German-speaking world doesn’t have a traditional Hallowe’en, its origins are echoed in *Allerheiligen* and *Allerseelen* (All Saints and All Souls). These two Christian holidays mark the deceased. It is traditional to visit the graves of late relatives and light a candle for them.

Dedicating the month to those that have died continues in the tradition of *Volkstrauertag*, the national day of grieving. Just like international versions of Remembrance Day, the Germans take this day to remember those that have fallen in the wars. There is a minute’s silence held in the *Bundestag*, the German parliament.

Religious Holidays in November

Germany’s public holiday structure shows the influence of its different Christian denominations. In the predominantly catholic South, the *Bundesländer* are given a public holiday on 1 November for *Allerheiligen*.

This is different in the East, an area with a protestant majority. The five Eastern *Bundesländer* Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen (Saxony), Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen observe *Reformationstag* instead. This celebration coincides with Hallowe’en on 31 October and marks the occasion of [Martin Luther] publishing his influential 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Sachsen-Anhalt. This act ended up leading to the formation of the Protestant Church of Germany. The Protestant version of All Souls is *Totensonntag*, held on the last Sunday before Advent starts.

11. November at 11 o’clock: A Quick Moment of Carnival

All that doom and gloom can only be lightened up with a bit of foreshadowing to carnival season. With precise German timekeeping, the *Faschingszeit* begins “am 11.11. um 11 Uhr 11” (on 11/11 at 11:11). Germany’s carnival clubs consider the number 11 the craziest of the numbers. The reason is not confirmed, though some speculate this is because it stands between 10 (commandments) and 12 (apostles). Either way, there cannot be much talk of any kind of “season” with this one. German carnival enthusiasts may spend the day storming town halls and spreading joyful mischief, but carnival quickly returns behind the scenes until February when the real fun kicks off.

St Martin’s Day is Celebrated with Lanterns and Bonfires

If you are British, you know that 5 November is a day for bonfires and celebrations in the dark. But did you know that Germany has a bonfire and lantern tradition of its own to offer?

*Martinstag*, the day of St Martin, celebrated around 11 November, is dedicated to St Martin of Tours. He was a rich and generous knight who was riding along on his horse one wintry night as he came across a beggar by the side of the road. Seeing the poor man freezing, Martin cut his own coat into two pieces and shared it with the poor.

The generous knight eventually became a monk and a bishop, recognised by the church for his modesty and generosity. You can practice your German and watch his story in this cute video by WDR. Today, children craft lanterns and go on a walk to a bonfire site, singing songs about lanterns and St Martin.

The easiest song to learn is “Laterne, Laterne”, with its three lines of lyrics:

*Laterne, Laterne*

*Sonne, Mond und Sterne*

*Brenne auf mein Licht, Brenne auf mein Licht*

*Aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!*

(Lantern, Sun, Moon and Stars. Burn up my light, but not my precious lantern!)

No matter how you choose to spend your November this year, with this many celebrations and occasions we guarantee that your month more to offer than expected.

Halloween in Germany

Halloween in Germany
© Pixabay

It’s on again on October 31st: It’s Halloween. But while Americans are becoming nervous about the upcoming celebrations, the pumpkin-carving and the quest for the perfect creepy, yet sexy costume for the party, Germans are uncertain what to think. Is Halloween just another holiday imported from the US to make a profit or is it something that was also celebrated way before the Teutons came out of the woods?

The Development in Germany

It is more or less clear that Halloween isn’t a German holiday. To proof that, it is enough to look back to the past, let’s say, the 1970s. Halloween was not celebrated and mostly not even known. Not exactly on October 31st, but on November 1st, Germans are traditionally celebrating another holiday: Allerheiligen/All Saint’s Day. This particular Christian holiday is not nice to celebrate. Traditionally, you are thinking about your relatives and loved ones that have passed away by coming together at the graveyard. People sing sad songs and are freezing in the gray and unhappy November rain. This time is traditionally everything but happy or worth being celebrated with parties, as you can see. In some Bundesländer, the day is also a “Stiller Feiertag” with Tanzverbot. That means, you are not allowed to dance that day – or to be more precise, clubs and bars are not allowed to play loud music and to make their guests dance.

How is Halloween celebrated?

The last fact is also something that still influences the way Halloween is celebrated, especially in areas where this Tanzverbot is still in practice. In this mainly Catholic Bundesländer, Allerheiligen is an official holiday. But what do you do when you have a spare day as a youngster but no opportunity to go out the night before because of official Tanzverbot? You have to start a private party – and celebrating Halloween is a fair reason to do so.

Who celebrates it?

Celebrating Halloween in Germany is thus more or less exclusively something young people do. Not only private Halloween parties are very popular, but also clubs and bars are having decoration and Halloween-themed parties (sometimes without dancing, though). Germans do dress up for Halloween, but in a different way as Americans would do. The creepy thing is way more important for them. Ghosts, Zombies, Killers – you can see gruesome and bloody costumes in Germany for Halloween, but not many regular or sexy ones. The reason for that is simple: There is another opportunity in Germany to get dressed funny or sexy called Karneval/Fasching.

What do you have to be aware of?

Because of the many American TV series and movies, Halloween is an import to Germany. That’s why kids are more and more likely to do trick-or-treat. But unlike the kids in the movies, it doesn’t work well in Germany: Especially older people are not used to it and mostly do not even agree with celebrating an American tradition. The doors remain closed. But nevertheless, you can see kids in costumes walking around and begging for candy. Sometimes they will get some; mostly they don’t. But if you are old enough to drink, you can also have a fun day in Germany on October 31st.

The Future of German Society

second amendment
© Image by jarmoluk via Pixabay

A few Changes to Germany’s Culture

Thanks to a certain right-wing party’s recent landslide election wins, the future of German culture has been secured. Under the working title “German Leitkultur”, native Germans as well as all visiting or migrating foreigners will have to obey the following principles. But don’t worry, it’s very easy to become a bit more German so the locals don’t get upset. Here is an overview of the core changes:

Veils will not be Allowed in Public

Men and women will not be allowed to wear any piece of clothing or item that hides their face. I can only assume it is because one never knows whether a woman wearing a burqa or niqab is making faces at someone. Or what if a man decides to hide behind a veil and to commit a crime. I couldn’t find any statistics about it but if I can think of it, others certainly will, and crime rates may rise.  We already have a few very committed Bürgerwehren here in Germany whose self-appointed activities will soon be expanded to assist the Polizei in upholding the ban on veils and other crimes like looking out for gay men having sexual intercourse on autobahn parking places.


Strengthening Women’s Rights

As Turkish Premier R.T. Erdogan has made clear, women are above all mothers and should not be burdened by having to strive for economic independence. To lighten this burden, single mothers will not be supported anymore by the German Government. This will make women think twice about leaving their child’s father (even if he is not such a nice person) and re-stabilise German families, thus building the foundation for the next point:

The AfD wants to cut Taxes

… for enterprises and wealthy individuals. Finally, Germany will have a fair taxation system as one only has to make enough money to have to pay less taxes. If you think about it, why would the richest 1% have to pay for the remaining 99% of our country’s population? They are rich because they are working hard 48 hours per day, 62 days a month, 24 months a year. A nurse only would have to work for 2500 years and she would make the same amount of money as a manager at Daimler-Chrysler in ten years (e.g. Mr. Schremp allegedly made 80 Million in that time). It’s all about the chances in life, right? And everyone knows that someone who makes an average of Euro 1 Million per year is of more value to society than a nurse. Have you ever heard of a manager on strike or taking sick leave?

Paying less taxes of course means that we have to save money elsewhere and what better way to start saving than to cut social welfare. All those unemployed and disabled people cost society a fortune. After all, it is the family that causes the problem by giving birth to future social outcasts and therefore families should take care of them themselves. To further lighten a woman’s burden from the weight of economic independence, kindergartens will be closed so that mothers have a solid reason to stay at home and to motivate the husband to work overtime.  Also, old people’s homes will be no longer be necessary as taking care of one more person doesn’t really add much to a mother’s workload.

Better Moral Education

With mothers being busy taking care of their families again and men joyfully heading to work harder than ever, at times adolescents might get off track. However, as long as they are still young they can easily be straightened out. And what’s better than teaching a youngling a life-changing lesson than putting him or her into jail. Twelve seems to be a perfect age in the eyes of our future leaders to face some character-forming time in solitary confinement.

Ignoring Global Warming

As we know from more than 2% of scientists global warming is nothing but a temporal fluctuation of our planet’s body temperature. The other 97% of scientists are obviously victims of misinformation and maybe even part of a giant conspiracy. As long as there is one scientist doubting global warming, it simply doesn’t make sense to take action. The money is dearly needed to make up for the tax cuts and increased budget for the Ministry of Defence.

Finally, we will get our own Second Amendment

If every household had a firearm, severe conflicts among Germans would diminish. Every year 830 Germans die from gunshot wounds. Approximately 750 of these were suicides (~90%) and the remaining 70 were accidents or rather affect based attacks by jealous spouses or criminals. That’s almost 0,001% of the German population and completely unacceptable. Just to put this number into perspective, in the US only 33,636 people died from gunshot wounds, 21,175 of which committed suicide (~62%) which is a 0,01% of their population, or just ten times more than in Germany. And people in the USA must feel significantly more safe than those in Germany with all those guns around which are certainly in the hands of reliable and responsible people. It was high time that Germany followed this successful model of self-defence and ensured that every home had a firearm in it. . 

Above I have described the main changes that are to be expected if right-wing parties continue to have such success at the polls. As you can see they are in everyone’s best interest and will make our lives more secure and free us from the burden of having to make too many free and informed decisions or live in a society where we all agree that the least fortunate amongst us need help, single mothers should be supported and that dignity is something everyone should have and not just the rich.

At this point you might expect me to declare that this is all a bad April fool’s day joke but I must admit that I was lacking the imagination to come up with such a hopeful vision for my country’s future and only “enhanced” publicly available information. Luckily we still might have a few years left before this vision ultimately comes true but if we don’t wake up now, a post like this will soon not be posted just on the first of April anymore.

But hey, heads up. No matter how much to the right German society will move, knowing German will always be seen as a friendly act and might save your life one day.

German Easter Traditions

german easter traditions
© Image by christty via Pixabay

The Importance of Easter in Germany

In countries with a Christian history, Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year. Combining ancient pagan symbols for fertility and life (the egg and the bunny) with the message of hope and renewal, Easter also marks the solid turn from winter firmly into spring. If you live in the United States or other countries, and see traditions like the Easter egg or decorating grasses/branches, those traditions may have come from Germany.

First, a note: Easter is a variable-date holiday, which means that its date changes from one year to the next! Germany uses the Western Christian reckoning but make sure to consult a calendar for exact dates if you are making plans.
There are spring parades that occur some three weeks before Easter. These are called Sommertagszug (Summer Day Parade) and are basically a time when people tell winter that it’s time to leave.

Also, leading up to Easter, there are Easter-season markets held around various parts of Germany, selling things like decorated eggs, wreaths, spring themed ornaments, chocolates shaped like eggs or bunnies or all sorts of other shapes, and other crafts. These are called Ostermarkt (Easter markets) and can be quite fun to go to! A note for the families, however: many of the chocolates in Germany around this time may contain alcohol, so be careful when giving chocolates to young children.

Ostereier – Easter Eggs

Now about Easter eggs. Easter eggs are a major part of the Easter tradition in Germany: notably, hanging the decorated eggs up in bushes or in trees. These trees are called Ostereierbaum (literally: Easter egg tree) and a notable one, decorated since 1965, was the Saalfeld Eierbaum. 2015 was its last year open to the public, but you can still see its website here (English version)
You might also see, in some areas, city wells or fountains decorated with evergreens and with eggs also. This is a newer tradition, developed in the 20th century, though it uses old symbols of life – the idea of decorating or “dressing” a well exists in other countries, where it is seen as honoring water (as water is necessary for continued life) and the life and well-being of the community (by going to a communal well).

Easter Traditions

For Easter itself, the observances properly start on the Friday before Easter (Good Friday). Historically, people ate fish on this Friday – this was because of a pun on the Greek word for fish, which was used to signify Jesus Christ in early Christianity. Within churches, the crucifix or cross may be covered in a shroud, representing the story of Jesus being condemned to death and dying via crucifixion on a Friday.

On Saturday or Sunday (depending on the tradition) there are vigil services and Easter bonfires. Bonfires help bring the community together again, and are again a symbol not only of the Christian idea of overcoming sin and death, but also signifying previous traditions signifying warmth and fertility.

On Easter Sunday, many relax with their families and friends. They may go to church or they may not; however it is a time where people visit each other, and children may hunt for Easter eggs or get given some decorated eggs and candy. An Easter meal is consumed – particularly during brunch or lunch time. This Easter meal historically has made use of lamb (again, because of Christian symbolism: the idea that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb of God). There may be more chocolates and pastries than usual at the Easter meal – after all, it’s meant to be a festive meal, so people tend to concentrate on the desserts.

Decorations put up for Easter often last through the week, ending roughly a week after Easter Sunday.

Germany wants UK to stay in EU

United Kingdom stays in the European Union
© Image by IMAGE-WS via Pixabay

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an impassioned appeal, last week, for Britain to remain in the European Union.

Supporting British Prime Minister David Cameron’s calls for a renegotiation of the EU terms of membership, she told the German government that she was “convinced that it is in our national interest for Great Britain to remain an active member in a strong and successful European Union.”

She also asked her government to understand the British position and pointed out that Cameron’s plans would have a positive impact on every EU member state. “Far from being demands that are just for Britain, they are also European demands and many of them are justified and necessary” she said.

In Everyone’s Interests

Merkel made her statement shortly before Cameron attended a two day EU summit in Brussels, where European leaders gathered to discuss his proposal for potential reforms. Among many things, he called for tighter rules on immigration and benefits – both hot topics throughout Europe due to increasing refugee waves.

In order to achieve success, Cameron will have to get 28 EU leaders to pledge their support to the package that was drawn up by EU council president Donald Tusk.

Merkel has already made her support vocal. She agrees with Cameron that countries not in the Eurozone should not be pushed aside, and also said that “there is no point of dissent between the UK and Germany as far as social systems are concerned.”

Protecting the UK benefits system has long been a key concern of the British premier, and Merkel backing him up has given his concerns significant weight. France and Ireland have also weighed in with their support, and French PM Francois Hollande has said that Britain has a “firm basis” for an agreement. However, these ideas have received significant criticism from Eastern European governments, most notably Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has been the most outspoken, saying that he would be in full support of the measures so long as they don’t affect the wellbeing of his citizens. The reforms include a clause about imposing child benefit limits on migrants, leading to concerns amongst Eastern European governments that the reforms will hit their citizens hardest. They have, in response, proposed that the limits only apply to new arrivals in the UK, and not to citizens currently residing in EU countries.

In response to these reprovals, Merkel quashed any arguments that the new system would be unfair by stating that the original EU principles of free movement and non-discrimination were “not open for discussion.”

Should they stay or Should they go?

The summit was held shortly after polls revealed that the majority of “mainland” Europeans want Britain to remain in the EU, with 60% for and 10% against. But the British public are less divided, with just 50% wanting to remain in the EU compared with 40% who want to leave. Cameron has promised that a nationwide referendum will be scheduled for before the end of 2017, but it’s looking like a vote could happen as early as June this year.

Cameron’s business-oriented government will surely be paying attention to the results of another poll that asked British and German business leaders “how would a Brexit affect your investments? “.Over 30% of businessmen and women polled said that Britain leaving the EU would have a “very” or “somewhat” negative impact over the coming three years, and 29% said that they would definitely reduce their UK operations if a Brexit was confirmed, with many stating that they would withdraw altogether.

Business managers overwhelmingly want Britain to stay in the EU, with 76% of British firms and 83% of German firms agreeing. “The prospect that almost a third of British and German companies threaten to reduce or remove their activities in the UK should cause concern among politicians as well as the general public,” stated the authors of the report.

Would you want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union? And if so why?
Tell us in the comments.

A Lovestorm Against Incredible Hate

Languages unite people
                      Learning a Language Unites Us

Lately, I found myself in the center of a shitstorm created by a radical right wing crowd. Cause of this unusual uprising was the illustration you see on top of this blog post. While I am pretty aware that there are pretty dark places out there, the messages these people felt they had to share with me, made those dark places pretty palpable.

But despite these beings’ intentions, I felt sad and compassionate because someone who writes such filthy comments to a person he or she has never met nor made the effort to check out his background, must be extremely frustrated with his or her life and person.

So I decided to share with you what they shared with me and to comment on it. I didn’t just wanted to sit this one out. These things need to be shown to the public and to be deconstructed in a constructive way. Their “reasoning” lacks, well, reason. Wild assumptions are made and extreme fear shines through each of their words. 

From my experience of the last 43 years, hate is best answered with love. I feel their sadness and it is kind of overwhelming. What a dark place they must be in to feel the urge to write those things. They need some light. 

I also would like to promote a few really motivated organisations that help hate filled people to get out of their locked up thinking. I linked to them at the bottom of this post. Needless to say that they are all NGOs and non-profit organizations. Although this post is primarily concerned with making right-wing extremism public, I want you to know that I am as opposed against any form of extremism and violence, no matter by whom they are acted out.

It’s a bit longer but I hope you take something from it nevertheless and of course that you are on my side when it comes to spread love and understanding rather than hate, anger and fear. Show me by sharing this video with everybody you know and by writing a few lovely lines for those who are in fear -and by that I do not only mean the Nazis. Please refrain from hating back or ridiculing them. They do that themselves without our aid. You’d just pour oil on their fires. Spread love and understanding and promote reason and logic.

Learning German or any other language is a step towards world peace. The better we understand each other the less likely are we to become enemies. Let’s leave this place behind in a better state than we have found it.

Ich danke Dir für Deine Unterstützung.

Michael Schmitz


Amadeu Antonio Stiftung
They collect funds for a democratic culture. I like their positive outlook. Check out some of their campaigns here.

Hass Hilft + Rechts gegen Rechts
These are two projects of the same group of people. They are turning right radical activity into funds for exit programs and education about right-winged thinking and organizations.

Kein Bock auf Nazis
“Keinen Bock haben auf” means “Can’t be bothered with…” Their page is in German only but their information on how we can all stand up against such threats uttered by neo-nazis and other radical groups would make a worthy training for your German. They also got support of quite a few well-known German music groups. Check out their “über uns” section.

Pro Asyl
They are providing support for refugees in various ways. Their page is available also in English language.

Christmas Markets in Germany – 3

Christmas Markets in Germany - Part I
Germany has a long Tradition of Beautiful Christmas Markets / Image from

Christmas Markets in Germany

Part Three of Three

There are many major Christmas markets in Germany besides those held in Berlin and, while the Christmas markets in Berlin have always been my favorites, the following are three of my Christmas markets beyond Berlin.  They are unquestionably superb and warrant at least a day-long visit if possible.

Nuremberg Christmas Market

(Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt) opened on 27 November 2015 and runs through 24 December 2015 and is open from 1000 until 2100 daily, except on the last day (Christmas Eve), when it closes at 1400.  Merchants go out of their way to turn old town Nuremberg into a very, very colorful, cheerful, and festive Christmassy city.  There are over 180 well decorated and lighted stalls arranged for one to find unique gifts, ornaments, games, drinks, and snacks.  There’s plenty of mulled wine and alcohol punch, bratwurst, lebkuchen, roasted almonds, and gingerbread and the mix of aromas, nostalgia, childlike anticipation, and camaraderie enhance the experience for everyone, regardless of age.



One of the Nuremberg Christmas Market’s main attractions is the distinctive yellow Christmas Stagecoach, drawn by two Rheinland heavy draft horses which are reined by Heinz Lehneis, with Gerhard Pickel at his side, toting a golden horn, rather than a shotgun.  Pickel plays holiday tunes to the delight of onlookers while, inside the stagecoach, lucky passengers take in the entire Christmas Market from their privileged seats.  Passage in the stagecoach lasts about 10 minutes and they are memorable minutes indeed, particularly for children and for adults recalling their childhood.


The source of almost all the craftworks not only for the Dresden Christmas Market, but also for Christmas Markets throughout Europe, is the small Saxon town Seiffen.  With fewer than 2,700 residents, Seiffen is in the middle of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge), within walking distance of Czechoslovakia.  Seiffen began as a mining town 700 years ago, but, as the silver and tin deposits depleted, the residents turned to lace making, weaving, and wood carving and began to specialize in toy making.

At the end of the 17th century, Nuremberg was a key toy distribution point for much of Europe.  A Seiffen resident, Friedrich Hiemann, took toys to various toy distributors in Nuremberg.  The distributors were impressed by the toys and Seiffen has been a key player ever since.


Stuttgart Christmas Market

It is one of the oldest, most popular, and most infectiously exciting Christmas Markets in Germany.  It’s centered in the city center in view of the so-called old palace and extends past the Altes Schloss, Schillerplatz, Kirchstrasse, and Hirschstrasse.  With almost 300 stalls, there’s virtually nothing left to the imagination.  If you’re at sixes-and-sevens as to what to buy for a reclusive aunt, a prickly boss, or a borderline sweetheart, you will find many possibilities as you wander through the Stuttgart Christmas Market.

Visitors of all ages to the Stuttgart Christmas Market are bathed in the continual music and songs of the many visiting choirs, choral groups, and instrumental groups chosen for their popularity and expertise to nurture and promote the seasonal Christmas spirit.  All the while, the market’s physical layout provides rapid and accurate access to the sort of treats sought by visitors, whether it be candies and various local savories, household wares, honey products, seasonal clothing, decorations, candles, or toys.

The huge expanse of the market includes the ice-skating rink adjacent to the Schlossplatz and the magnificent antique and collectors’ marketplace in the Karlsplatz.  There’s a delightful mini-railway for children, and a live nativity scene that includes two lambs, two sheep, a donkey, and two goats for the duration of the Christmas Market in the Sporerstraße near the market hall.

U-Bahn 5, 6, 7, & 15 bring you to the center of the market at Schlossplatz, and U-Bahn 1, 2, 4, & 11 bring you to within two blocks of the Marktplatz at the Rathaus.  If you prefer the bus, use lines 42, 43, 44, & 92 to deliver you safe and sound to the market.  In other words, lack of transportation is no excuse for missing out.

Christmas Markets in Germany – 2

Christmas Markets in Germany - Part II
Germany has a long Tradition of Beautiful Christmas Markets / Image from

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 1

Part two of three

Because there so are many Christmas Markets in Germany, it’s impossible to visit them all unless you want your memory of them to be nothing more than a blur. If you have 10 days to two weeks to devote to the pre-Christmas season, then select three or four Christmas Markets that are not too far from one another, and set out by car or train. You’ll never regret your tour.

Berlin has more than five dozen Christmas Markets of various sizes, so you can pick and choose at will and get a flavor for what’s important to the residents of Berlin’s many unique neighborhoods.

One of the most popular in Berlin is the market at the three-centuries-old Schloß Charlottenburg on Spandauer Damm, the largest palace in Berlin ( The market runs from 23 November through 26 December. Its hours are from 1400-2200 (Monday-Thursday) and 1200-2200 (Friday-Sunday) and is reachable via bus lines 145, 109, & 309, S-Bahnhof “Westend,” and U-Bahn (7) at Richard-Wagner Platz. Paid parking is available, but why drive? Who needs the hassle? Also, Schloß Charlottenburg officials install a special lighting arrangement for the Christmas Market, bathing the palace and grounds in spectacular holiday colors that will take your breath away. Multiple stalls and marquees offer local beverages and traditional seasonal snacks to delight one and all, and crafts of all sorts will tickle your fancy. Near the palace’s greenhouse, the so-called winter-forest section offers a carousel. There are also special tours of the palace scheduled during this Advent season.

Another quite popular Christmas Market is “Christmas Magic” at the Gendarmenmarkt (, a square in Berlin and the location of Berlin’s renowned Konzerthaus, Leipziger Straße 65, is flanked by the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche on the north and the Deutsche Dom on the south. In effect, you can spend a few full days exploring not only the Christmas Market itself, but two superb churches and Berlin’s center of orchestral concerts and chamber music. It’s reachable via U-Bahn (2) at Hausvogteiplatz. It’s open daily between 23 November through 31 December, inclusive, from 1100-2200 (until 1800 on 24 December). More than 600,000 people visit this Christmas Market every year, so be prepared for some stiff competition for the many handmade products, art of all sorts, delicacies, and cheeses,
that are the specialty of this market, with ample opportunity to sample before you buy. “Christmas Magic” also boasts a huge, magnificently decorated Christmas tree and live plays every day to bring the meaning of Christmas home for children and adults alike. There is a modest (€1.00) entrance fee after 1400 daily. If you take the S-Bahn to the Friedrichstrasse station, you can enjoy the lighted shops along Friedrichstrasse as you walk to the Gendarmenmarkt.

Berlin’s 150-year-old Red City Hall (“Rotes Rathaus”) on Alexanderplatz hosts a superb Christmas Market, Berliner Weihnachtszeit, ( in Central Berlin, adjacent to the 368-meter Television Tower (“Fernsehturm”), completed in 1969, and the 50- meter Ferris Wheel, 23 November through 29 December, from 1200-2100 weekdays and 1100-2200 weekends. This market caters particularly well to children and includes an area with several domesticated farm animals with which children can interact, schedules several daily visits by Father Christmas (“der Weihnachtsmann”), and offers ice skating in a large, 600-square-meter outdoor rink. The entire market, insofar as possible, is reminiscent of the early 1900s and presents a nostalgic, even romantic, picture of Berlin life. There’s no shortage of music, food, beverages, and a breathtakingly broad selection of gifts for both children and adults. On average, more than 800,000 pedestrians and S-Bahn and U-Bahn travelers pass through Alexanderplatz every day.

On the other side of Alexanderplatz is the much more modern, even glitzy, Wintertraum am Alexa (, which includes several rides traditionally associated with fairs. There’s a Ferris Wheel, a roller coaster (“die Achterbahn”) nicknamed “the wild mouse,” and other spinning and bumping rides favored by children and the young-at-heart. Especially popular is the so-called voodoo jumper which is not nearly as daunting as its name implies, but which teens love. In fact, most teens favor the Wintertraum am Alexa more than any other Christmas Market in Berlin. This market offers opportunities for parents and children to share experiences or for them to take part in separate activities if they prefer. All the traditional Christmas market stalls, foods, drinks, etc., are available in addition to the special activities laid on for the younger generation. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Jannowitzbrucke/Alexanderplatz.

Two more Berlin Christmas markets should be mentioned. The first is the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche, Kantstraße, running 23 November through 03 January, from 1100-2100 (Sunday through Thursday) and 1100-2200 (Friday & Saturday). This market is located quite close to the Kurfurstendamm, the most elegant shopping boulevard in Berlin, and offers the opportunity for extensive shopping and a chance to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Seeing the memorial church is a very moving experience and, if you’re lucky enough to visit when the bells are rung, your experience might well approach the ethereal. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to the Zoologischer Garten. The second additional Berlin Christmas market is the
Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (used to be but the link is dead). Because it opens on or about 01 November and runs through 03 January, this market sets the pace for all the Berlin Christmas markets. The hours are 1000-2200 daily (1000-1400 on 24 December). Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. This market is much more than a Christmas Market. It offers visitors the chance to slide down a snow-packed hill on a tire (think toboggan/luge), go ice skating, and—get ready!—Eisstockschießen, a cross between curling and bowling. Of course, there are also plenty of stalls, beverages, foods, and gifts to delight both casual and jaded shoppers. More than 2,500,000 visitors pass through this market every year.

Christmas Markets in Germany – 1

Christmas Markets in Germany
Zimt = Cinnamon / Image from

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 2

Part One of Three

Advent (“der Advent”) is the Christian religious period beginning four Sundays immediately
preceding Christmas and, to the Christian residents in many European countries, the approach of Advent means the so-called Christmas Markets are in the offing.

Christmas Markets comprise all sorts of retail stalls offering traditional Christmas-related items as well as food and drink, e.g., Christmas pyramids, carved nutcrackers that are both useful and superb examples of naïve art, i.e., art that celebrates a simplicity of subject matter and technique, incense burners, music boxes, candles, baubles, glühwein (SEE my recipe for Mulled Cider below), bratwurst, Stollen, a dried bread containing dried fruit and often covered with sugar icing or a dusting of powdered sugar, and Lebkuchen, also known as Pfefferkuchen, which is a cookie with a close resemblance to gingerbread. Seasonal candy, usually incorporating almonds and almond paste in varying degrees, is a popular item for locals and visitors alike.

All the markets feature a nativity scene that recounts the story of the birth of Jesus when Mary and Joseph return to their home village for the census.

Of course, there is also a great deal of singing and dancing, sometimes spontaneous, but usually organized by various of the sponsoring towns’/cities’ religious and civic groups.

Christmas Markets’ popularity started in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in the early 15th century and slowly spread and peaked over much of Christian Europe during the subsequent 150 years. Of course, there’s still controversy as to which was the first Christmas Market in Germany. Imagine a lively debate nowadays about that unimportant point after six centuries! Dresden routinely claims the honor, arguing that its Christmas Market opened in 1434, but Bautzen, in eastern Saxony, rejects Dresden’s claim in light of having its own Christmas Markets fifty years earlier. Munich points to its Christmas Markets having begun in 1310 and Frankfurt enters the argument by claiming a Christmas Market in 1393. The debate has all the passion and importance of a schoolyard controversy and is always a great deal of fun for the newspapers.

All the various cities pooh-pooh each others’ historical claims, but it’s mostly well-meant community spirit and loyal fans merely cheering for the home team. The important point is that each of the more than three dozen chief Christmas Market cities sincerely believes that its Christmas market is the best and the only way to judge is to visit them all. Oh, that that were possible!

Arguably, the Christmas Markets of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, Erfurt, and Augsburg are the best known and most popular, but, since Germany has more than three dozen Christmas markets—indeed, Berlin has four quite large Christmas Markets of its own—one needn’t be too concerned if schedules and weather preclude your visiting them all. It’s safe to assume that, whichever Christmas Markets you visit, your experiences and memories will delight and buoy your spirits. For a list of the 39 main Christmas Markets in Germany, see Wikipedia.

Be prepared for crowds when you visit a German Christmas Market. Each Christmas Market features a huge decorated Christmas tree and hundreds of stalls selling everything you can imagine for the Christmas holidays to the millions of visitors. The most famous are also the most crowded. More than two million visitors pass through both the Nuremberg and Dresden Christmas Markets every year, but the Christmas Markets at Frankfurt and Stuttgart host more than three million tourists and shoppers every year. The largest of the German Christmas Markets are in Dortmund, with more than three and a half million visitors, and Cologne, with more than four million tourists and shoppers. The Christmas Markets are very, very popular.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt’s Mulled Cider

150 g brown sugar (real brown sugar!)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

3 Cinnamon sticks

Dash of nutmeg

1.9 liter sweet, clear cider (“der Apfelmost” [alkoholfrei])

Combine cider and brown sugar in a double boiler (“der Wasserbadtopf”). Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer (double-boiler water should boil robustly) for at least 10 minutes. It should become quite aromatic.

Strain and return to the double boiler. Turn off the heat, but cover to keep warm. Serve “as is” (“Istzustand”) to children; add a jigger of peppermint schnapps to adult cups. Make sure you have enough of everything. It’s ideal for blustery winter days and nights.

Review: German Men Sit Down to Pee

Stereotypes about Germans - What is true and what not
Illustration Provided by the Book Authors

Do they? Frankly, I picked up this book because, after three years of living in Germany, I had the hunch that it might be true. So I was curious to see what other quirks do German men and women have. Should you read this book (which is by the way available here)?

If you are a traveler visiting Germany, if you are a foreigner living in Germany, if you fell in love with a German or are just curious about Germany, then definitely yes, you should read this book. It is a well-written book, though it might not win the Pulitzer prize this year. So go ahead, read it and enjoy a good introduction to how German people are, what they like, and what you absolutely shouldn’t do if you don’t want to fall out of their graces. What’s all the rave about? Well, let’s see. Think a bit about the following questions before reading the answer:

  1. Considering everything you know about Germany and German people, do you think they have a sense of humor?” The fact the world thinks that Germans don’t have a sense of humour shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a stereotype that we’ve all grown up hearing.(..) But the real reason that this stereotype has persisted is because to understand German humour, you need to speak German.” So go ahead, learn German and discover for yourself.
  2. When someone comes up with a not-so-bright idea at work, what do you do? You’d probably take the polite way. But not if you’re in Germany. “In most countries, there would be an awkward silence where everyone (including the person who had the bad idea) reflects on just how terrible it was. Eventually someone will break the silence and politely say something along the lines of “that’s very nice, but how about…” In Germany, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear more than a short and sweet “nein”. For Germans, letting someone down gently is seen as an inefficient use of time that could otherwise be spent discussing the good ideas.” On the bright side, you’ll always know exactly where you stand.
  3. On making jokes about the recent history. You might have stumbled across this hilarious video on Youtube. It cracks you up, right? Wrong. In Germany the subject isn’t seen as a humorous one, so “if you want to break the ice with a group of Germans, leave your best Hitler jokes at home.”, the book advises. The book also brings up issues such as nakedness in public spaces, what not to do on Sundays, and generously introduces the reader into the charming world of German media culture.

To find out more about proper “Germaning”, get a sample on this page or buy the book on Amazon.

Alexandra Florea is a passionate social scientist, technology enthusiast, professional learner, currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology of Work at Goethe University Frankfurt and learning her fourth language, German.

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