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In Germany, Christmas is a big deal. Christmas markets spring up in town centers with stands selling anything from currywurst (my favorite) to crepes. There are Ferris wheels and carnival rides for the children, and spiked eggnog for the adults. Scattered through the Altermarkt, stands selling handmade décor offer a bit of Christmas cheer to bring home. Christmas in Germany feels less flashy than in the US. Sure, people probably have similar things on their Wunschliste, the newest iPhone or gadget. But there is also a charm and simplicity that I find lacking in the malls in the States.
Here are 5 gift ideas inspired by popular Christmas items in Germany
For this mostly Christian country, Advent is a huge deal. Along with the candles and special tea-times on Sundays, Advent is celebrated with the good old-fashioned Adventskalender. But these are not your typical chocolate-a-day you get from Trader Joe’s. The calendars are themed and can be found at any store. From beauty supplies, food, tea, toys, clothes, you name it, people hunt down the type they want and give them throughout the holiday season. (The funniest one I saw was a playboy advent calendar. I was laughing too hard to find out what was inside).
Since our homes are usually flats in shared buildings, nobody has Christmas lights on display outside. Instead, windows are lit with white or red Herrnhut, or Moravian stars. These stars symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and come in a variety of styles, each as stunning as the rest.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever played Catan. 🙋♀️ You can thank (or curse) Germany for that creation. Some of the best board games come out of this country, thanks in part to their obsession with clubs (everyone is in a club), and SPIEL, the largest board game convention in the world which takes place in Essen every year. This year, games like Azul and die Quacksalber (not available in English…yet!) took home the top prize for game of the year.
Teddy Bears and cuddly creatures
For the Kinder (children) or collector, Germany’s oldest toy maker creates cuddle-inducing cheer. Steiff, world-famous for the creation of the teddy bear, draws children and adults into their Christmas window displays. While in Bonn, I nearly missed this experience walking past a massive crowd of people glued to 100 meters of glass. Three people deep and over the heads of little ones was a fantastical forest of animals come to life, all Steiff creatures pushing carts, playing on swings, hiding among trees. The feeling of childlike wonder in the air was palpable as we all hoped that glass would disappear so we could get our hands on that cute little fox.
Not American football, but the real football the rest of the world plays. Or as it’s called here, Fußball. Support your local Bundesliga or the national team even when we haven’t won a game (but we tied twice, so that counts, right?). In the US, you wear your Cavs t-shirts, here, we have Arminia. Or Paderborn, or Dortmund, or Germany. The kit gives people something to be proud of, even if the national team gets knocked out of the world cup in the first round, or the city team hasn’t technically won a game. There’s a sense of community and togetherness that comes on gameday, when the stadium is full and the whole city is wearing blue, white, and black.
Some Christmas Spirit
Maybe this year you can skip the typical consumables and gift cards, and go for a little Christmas charm from Abroad. Choose gifts that promote togetherness and simplicity; encourage laughter and cuddles, and help bring a little Christmas spirit back into the flashy malls of the States.
What’s on your wishlist? And more importantly, what’s on your givelist?