Back home in Bavaria Christmas is more than just a holiday; it's a tapestry of rich traditions that have been woven through the centuries. Two iconic figures take center stage during this festive season for us—Saint Nikolaus and Christkindl—each bringing their unique magic to Bavarian homes.
Raising our kids with a mix of two Cultures, they get the benefits of both. Christmas Season is very traditional at our house and we always follow the traditions I brought with me from back home. This includes lots of cookie baking, candles, wreath making, and tree decorating, though we have adjusted the German tradition to fit more with the American schedule.
The Start of Christmas Season
Where in the US, in many homes the tree goes up after Thanksgiving, in Bavaria, we put together and decorate an Advent Wreath. The Advent season is a cherished time filled with age-old traditions that set the stage for Christmas. As the first candle is lit on the Advent wreath, homes across the region come alive with the spirit of anticipation and reflection.
The Advent wreath, adorned with four candles, takes center stage in Bavarian households. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, a new candle is lit, marking the progression of the season. Families gather around, sharing moments of reflection and warmth as the soft glow of the candles illuminates the room.
Saint Nikolaus: A Patron of Good Deeds
On December 6th we also celebrate Saint Nikolaus, which is where the legend of Santa originated. Though Saint Nikolaus, or Sinterklaas was an actual person in the 4th Century, a bishop who had left behind his family's merchant riches to serve his community instead.
On Saint Nikolaus Day, on December 6th, families eagerly await the arrival of Saint Nikolaus. Families typically schedule an in-house visit, where he comes to the door with his companion, often the stern yet corrective Krampus or Knecht Ruprecht. Kids will usually be dressed in their Sunday best, and recite poems or sing songs. Saint Nikolaus rewards well-behaved children with an array of treats—chocolates, nuts, and small gifts. It's a time-honored tradition that not only fills homes with joy but also imparts valuable lessons of kindness and good behavior.
Christkindl: The Angelic Bringer of Gifts
As Christmas Eve unfolds, Bavarian households welcome another cherished figure: Christkindl, the Christ Child. Unlike Santa Claus, Christkindl is often depicted as a radiant angel, embodying purity and innocence. In many Bavarian towns, Christkindl makes a grand entrance during festive parades or markets, spreading the spirit of the season.
The Christkindl is the bearer of gifts, symbolizing the true essence of Christmas as a celebration of love and generosity. Families gather around the Christmas tree, adorned with traditional ornaments and candles, as Christkindl distributes presents to eager hands.
Preserving the Essence: Passing Down Bavarian Christmas Traditions
In an ever-changing world, Bavarian families hold steadfast to the traditions that define their Christmas celebrations. The passing down of customs from one generation to the next ensures that Saint Nikolaus and Christkindl continue to weave their magic, creating a sense of continuity and connection to the rich cultural heritage of Bavaria.
As the lights twinkle on Bavarian Christmas trees and the sound of carols fills the air, it's not just the presents that make the season special. It's the warmth of shared moments, the embrace of timeless traditions, and the enduring spirit of Saint Nikolaus and Christkindl that truly make Christmas in Bavaria magical.
In our house we hold these traditions near and dear to our heart and we follow them as much as we can with what we have at our avail. We make due with what we have access to and continue to make the Christmas Season a magical one around here.