Christmas Fact 24

German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

24. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

Die Bescherung (2) und der zweite Weihnachtstag

As we mentioned in Bescherung (1), the main part of a German Christmas happens on Christmas Eve (am Heiligabend).

Shops and offices close in the early afternoon of the 24th. People go home to get ready for the evening’s festivities. Practices vary from family to family, but usually there is an early Christmas dinner before exchanging gifts. As mentioned in The Secret Christmas Tree, this may be the first time the children have seen the tree. Some families gather during the day of the 24th to decorate the Tannenbaum. Everyone admires the decorated tree with its real candles (in traditional homes), and then they gather around it in the evening to hand out gifts. The tree may stay up until Epiphany (January 6, Heilige Drei Könige, “holy three kings,” the three Wisemen, the Magi).

In religious families, especially in Catholic regions (Austria, Southern Germany, Cologne, etc.), die Christmette, the Christmas or Midnight Mass, is also an important part of the Christmas Eve celebration. In some homes the Christmas dinner isn’t served until after the Midnight Mass.

Der zweite Weihnachtstag
In most European nations, including Austria, Germany and parts of Switzerland, the Christmas celebration lasts for two days, not one. The second Christmas Day (Dec. 26) is a legal holiday, similar to Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, parts of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of the Commonwealth nations. In Austria the day is known as Stefanitag (Stephanstag in Catholic regions of Germany and Switzerland) in honor of St. Stephen’s feast day on the Catholic calendar. Der zweite Weihnachtstag is often used for visits with family and friends, or just another quiet day at home.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas!


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