December in Germany is a pretty special time of year. The country seems like it was almost made for Christmas. Heavy German foods from the south such as Spätzle or Knödel, Schnitzel or Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) are the perfect German foods to eat on a cold winter night.
The challenge for most tourists to Germany, though, is the language. (That, despite the fact that English is Germanic!) It’s funny – a lot of German words sound similar to their English counterparts, but for some reason, most of the Christmas and holiday-related words sound nothing like their English version. Thankfully I’ve spent the past two holiday seasons in Germany boning up on my German language skills. And now, Glühwein in hand, I’m pretty much an expert on what are arguably the most important German words you’ll need to know!
- der Glühwein — it’s hot, alcoholic and delicious. You don’t need to know much more than that.
- der Weihnachtsmarkt — this is probably the reason why you’re visiting Germany at Christmas. These markets (also sometimes called a Christkindlmarkt) are where you’ll find yourself in the evenings. They’re actually way more fun than you might imagine and while many sell souvenirs and various crafts & gifts, they’re also just a great place to meet friends.
- die Feuerzangenbowle — it’s another drink you’ll find at the markets. Unlike your basic Glühwein, however, this one’s got some extra rum and is actually set on fire when it’s being poured. Just wait for the flames to die down before imbibing.
- das (Weihnachts) Geschenk — something you’ll find under dem Baum…but only if you’re good!
- die Ente — what you eat for Christmas dinner. Hint: it’s not turkey like the British nor a roast like the Americans.
- die Gans — Goose seems to be another popular option for Christmas dinner in Germany.
- der (Weihnacts) Baum — ♪ O Tannenbaum ♪ O Tannenbaum ♪ — You’ll find die Geschenke under this on Christmas Eve.
- der Schnee — If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, hope to see a lot of this on the ground when you wake!
- der Kranz — Made from the leaves from a Tannenbaum, in America we hang these up on the front doors of our houses. In Germany, you set them on tables and add die Kerzen. Some people even host parties dedicated to creating your D-I-Y Adventskranz.
- die Kerze — If you’re Jewish, you light these on fire each night during Hanukkah!
- der Adventskalender — A pretty popular tradition, it’s pretty much the same as in America. You open little doors on a box and get a sweet—hopefully chocolate.
Try the Rosetta Stone German Demo to help you navigate the German Christmas markets!