The pre-Christmas season has begun and with it the familiar scent of cookies and gingerbread. Brightly lit houses shine with the opulent candle arches on the windowsills or the twinkling strings of lights on the facades of the houses. And the streets are already bustling in the early afternoon hours: men and women streaming out of department stores and small stores – fully loaded with big shopping bags and boxes. And in between you discover the small and large children, who flatten their cold noses in amazement at the colorfully decorated shop windows.
Advent, Advent a little light is burning..
At the latest now everyone of us knows: Christmas is not far away anymore. But what is the pre-Christmas season all about?? The term "Advent" is derived from the Latin word "adventus", which means "arrival" and refers to the birth of Jesus Christ or his return on Christmas Eve.
Every day a little door
In order to sweeten the days until Christmas Eve, young and old nowadays probably still prefer to fall back on the well-known Advent calendar. Its actual origin can unfortunately no longer be traced back exactly. It is believed that the first handmade calendar dates back to 1851. Thereby the people were very imaginative in the implementation. In one variant, for example, families gradually hung 24 pictures on the wall. In another, 24 chalk lines were painted on the wall, with the children allowed to wipe away one line every day.
At the Christmas tree the lights burn
The most famous Christmas custom is probably the Christmas tree. As early as 1494, it was mentioned in Sebastian Brant’s "Ship of Fools" that people put green fir branches in their houses. In 16. In the seventeenth century, the citizens of Strasbourg began to place boxwoods, hollies and small yews – at that time without candles – in their living rooms.
The first candle-decorated Christmas tree was reported in 1611 in the castle of Duchess Dorothea Sybille of Silesia, and almost 170 years later there was the first Christmas tree in Berlin. It then began its worldwide triumphal procession in the 19. The Christmas tree was introduced to Germany in the 19th century by German emigrants, who brought it to America, among other places. In 1891, a Christmas tree stood in front of the White House in Washington for the first time.
Another custom in Germany, whose unmistakable scent probably awakens childhood memories in each of us, are the freshly baked cookies – decorated with icing or chocolate icing, colorful sprinkles or nuts. Together with grandma or mom, fir trees, bells or stars were cut out in the kitchen and the sweet dough was secretly eaten again and again.
Speaking of baking. Have you already tried our delicious Dresden Christmas Stollen this year?? It is produced in almost 120 bakeries and confectioneries in and around Dresden. Mentioned for the first time in 1474 under the name Strietzel, the pastry was initially made without milk, butter, raisins, almonds or candied lemon peel. Only over the centuries did the Stollen develop into the baked goods we know and love today.
For the inhabitants of the Saxon capital, however, not only the world-famous Dresden Christstollen is part of Christmas, but also a visit to the Dresden Striezelmarkt, which opened its doors for the first time in 1434. Originally intended as a pure meat market where citizens could buy their roast meat for the holidays, gradually more and more different goods were offered.
Christmas with a difference
Let’s take a look at the Christmas traditions in other countries around the world. I was curious to find out from my international colleagues in the team how they experience their Christmas celebrations.
This is how Christmas Eve is celebrated in Ukraine with family and relatives on 6. January. After the first stars have risen, the father lights three candles and the sumptuous feast with twelve different Lenten dishes begins. Among other things, they serve Maultaschen with various fillings, fish, salads, white bread slices, cookies, as well as the Ukrainian national dish "Borschtsch" (a cabbage soup with beet) and "Kutja" (boiled wheat with honey, poppy seeds, walnuts and raisins). The dishes are prepared without meat and their number is supposed to remind of the twelve apostles. After the meal, the whole family sings "Koljadky" – Ukrainian Christmas carols – or goes to mass.
In Belarus, there is a peculiarity that perhaps not everyone knows: Christmas is celebrated twice. This is how the Orthodox Christians celebrate the 7. January as a state holiday and for Catholics, who make up almost 20% of the country’s population, the 25. December. And what probably makes every child’s heart throb louder, is for our Data Scientist Dr. Andrey Lutich from Belarus has always celebrated Christmas twice – both in December and in January."And then he adds with a smile: "Unfortunately, I only ever got presents once at Christmas."
On "Noche Buena," as Christmas Eve is called in Spain, the family gets together for dinner and then goes to Midnight Mass together – the "Misa del Gallo". Unlike in Germany, however, the Spanish children have to be very patient, because traditionally the presents are not delivered until the 6th day of the month. January brought by the Magi. On the evening of 5. Januars put water and bread in front of the little earthlings for this purpose.
"On the 5. January, we already celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings in a colorful parade – the "Cabalgata de los Reyes," our Spanish web UI developer Enrique Moreno Tent tells us. "These ride on horses or camels through the Spanish villages and towns and distribute sweets to the waiting children at the roadside." A very special highlight for the Spaniards is also the "Sorteo extraordinario de Navidad" – the Christmas lottery. Started in 1812, it is considered the largest lottery in the world, measured by the amount won.
The feast of love
As different as customs and traditions are in different countries, Christmas has one thing in common everywhere: it’s a time for people to reflect on what’s really important in life. A time of rest, attention and charity. Therefore, it is not surprising that the willingness to donate is higher during the Christmas season than during the rest of the year. "Many people who help have had positive experiences, so have received a lot of support themselves. They want to give something back to society that they have received from society," knows Dr. sc. Eckhard Priller, head of the Civil Engagement Project Group at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
Whether in December or January, with Santa Claus, Papa Noel or Santa Claus – tell us below in the comments, which traditions and customs you maintain at Christmas and what is particularly close to your heart for the feast.
Finally, there is only one thing left to say: We wish all our readers a peaceful and reflective Christmas and a healthy New Year 2018.