Christmas Fact 12

German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

12. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

Die BescherungExchanging Gifts on Christmas Eve

Thomas Nast Christmas Market

The Thomas-Nast-Nikolausmarkt (Thomas Nast Christmas Market) in Landau (Pfalz), Germany is named for the German-American cartoonist and creator of the Santa Claus image, Thomas Nast. PHOTO:

In German-speaking Europe, there is no Santa Claus coming down the chimney (and usually no chimney!) on Christmas Eve. As we mentioned before, Sankt Nikolaus brings his gifts on December 6th, as a prelude to Christmas. German children don’t have to spend a sleepless night waiting to open Santa’s presents on Christmas morning. To celebrate Weihnachten, most Germans, Austrians, and Swiss gather around the Christmas tree on the night of December 24th, am Heiligen Abend, to exchange gifts. That custom is known as die Bescherung or the exchanging of gifts.

In Austrian and southern German Catholic tradition it is the Christkindl (the German word for “Christ Child” that also became “Kris Kringle” in the US) who brings gifts on Christmas Eve. In Protestant regions of Germany the Weihnachtsmann (“Father Christmas”) is the bearer of gifts, although in recent years the Weihnachtsmann is becoming even more widespread. Ironically, it was the Protestant reformer Martin Luther who created the Christkind to replace the Catholic Saint Nicholas. Somehow over the years the more secular Santa Claus became the Protestant gift bringer, while Catholic regions adopted the Christkind. Many Christmas markets in Austria and Germany’s Catholic and southern regions are named “Christkindlmarkt.”

Watch for more about die Bescherung and a typical German Christmas Eve in our Advent calendar in coming days.

THE GERMAN VERB bescheren:
jdn bescheren (v.t.) to present a Christmas gift to sb, give sb a Christmas present
jdm etw bescheren (v.i.) to bestow sth upon sb

GERMAN EXPRESSIONS with die Bescherung (all negative):
die Bescherung – (iron.) an unpleasant surprise; a mess
die ganze Bescherung – the whole mess
So eine schöne Bescherung! – This is a fine kettle of fish! What a disaster!
Da haben wir die Bescherung! – That’s done it. I told you so! – That’s a fine how do you do.
Nun guck dir die Bescherung an! – Just look at this mess!

CAROL > “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann” (“Tomorrow Santa’s Coming”) – Lyrics in German and English


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