Christmas Fact 17

German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

17. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

Der Tannenbaum als GeheimnisThe Secret Christmas Tree

Tannenbaum 1911

A German Christmas tree surrounded by gifts on Christmas Eve (ca. 1911).
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Some German families with young children still maintain the old German custom of keeping the Christmas tree hidden away or locked in a room where the kids can’t see it until Christmas Eve. The parents put up and decorate the tree, only to keep it a secret until the big “unveiling” on the 24th. It is a big event when the children get to see the family Tannenbaum for the first time on Christmas Eve, the night of die Bescherung (gift-giving).

To non-Germans it may seem strange to keep one of the key symbols of a German Christmas hidden from sight until the last minute, but it is a long and revered tradition which makes the tree a wonderful surprise for children and a central element of a family’s Christmas. The tree stays up until at least January 6 – Epiphany, Dreikönigstag, the “Twelfth Day” of Christmas – so the children still get to enjoy the decorated tree for almost two weeks.

CAROL > “O Tannenbaum” (“O Christmas Tree”) – Lyrics in German and English


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