It’s kind of hard for us in Australia, with temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade plus on a typical December 25, to imagine Christmas in Germany. I have lots of romantic images in my mind: fir trees drooping with snow, children skating on ice whilst wearing hand-knitted scarves, thatched roofs in picturesque villages.
In reality, it’s probably pretty dark and cold. One source suggests that many of the customs and feast days in this period developed in the first place because this was a time of year when the farmers could do little work anyway. The weather was bitterly cold and the days short.
All the same, when I hear that beautiful word Schneeflocke (snowflake), I cannot help but believe in my romantic version.
For an authoritative account of Christmas in Germany, you need to hear from someone who has experienced it, not from someone who likes visualizing it while turning on the air conditioning.
But before you tackle the texts or listen to the podcasts recommended below, you might find it useful to cycle through the two Quizlets provided. These will also allow you to revise the vocabulary you may already have learned in class or to encounter some German Christmas vocabulary for the first time.
This contains only single words (nouns and a few verbs). This means you’ll be able to play the Space Race game, once you’ve learned the words. Before you try that game, make sure you tick the „ignore stuff in parentheses“ box, which means you won’t have to type the plural as well. Even with this help, „der erste Weihnachtsfeiertag“ will require some very speedy typing…
It’s an addictive game. Sort of like Christmas food.
The second Quizlet contains the same words, but this time with sentences for each one. You can still play a game with this Quizlet, as well as just reading through it. The most suitable game for more complex text is Scatter, where you drag the appropriate sentence to its translation or corresponding picture.
Slow German Podcast: Weihnachten Annik Rubens describes her experience of Christmas and introduces some vocabulary that you will have encountered in the Quizlets above. Since you can read her words as well as hear them, you can work through the text with a dictionary beside you before you listen to the podcast itself. For a printable version of her Christmas podcast, click here.
Reading about Christmas in German
At this site, you can also read about Christmas in Germany in German. The text is fairly difficult, but there are many pictures that will help you visualize the experience and piece together the wording.
A Recipe for Gingerbread in German
To read (and try out) a classical recipe for Lebkuchen, a type of soft gingerbread, click here. This recipe for „Lebkuchentiere“ (gingerbread animals) might also interest you, especially since it was written for German children.
Who was Nikolaus?
♦Wer war der Nikolaus? This is an account of the origin of Nikolaus and Nikolaustag from the Children’s News Service, Kiraka. It is entirely in German and quite a difficult text, but it explains how shoes came to be the chosen item to be cleaned and put out for the reception of small gifts. See how much of the text you can nut out.
Four more podcasts about Christmas
♦These four podcast episodes from Grüße aus Deutschland, a 60-episode podcast produced by the Goethe Institute, will tell you a great deal about Christmas in Germany. The podcasts are lively, funny and interactive. You will undoubtedly find it easier to understand them if you read the related PDF files first and work through some of the words you don’t understand.
Quiz 1: Vocabulary Quiz
This quiz will help you to consolidate the vocabulary in the Quizlets above. It is entirely written in German, but the German is very simple.
Quiz 2: A Story Quiz
This quiz is a little more challenging.
Handouts for Teachers
A set of bingo cards
Handout – match pictures with corresponding infinitive expressions
A Christmas Game
Instructions for Christmas Game