Most Googled: What do Germans eat at Christmas?
Christmas is around the corner and, although 2020 has left a lot to be desired, we all owe it to ourselves to try and enjoy the festive season. So, in this episode of Most Googled, we thought we’d provide a little inspiration for your Christmas cooking and answer the question: What do Germans eat at Christmas?
Christmas food in Germany
The answer is: quite a lot! Unsurprisingly for a country with more Christmas traditions than you can shake a stick at, Christmas food in Germany is a varied affair, with each stage of the celebration coming with its own edible accompaniments. Here's an overview of what is traditionally eaten over the festive period in German households.
A German Christmas Eve
As anyone who's ever spent Christmas in Germany can tell you, Christmas Eve is so much more than the "Day before Christmas." With the ceremonial putting up and decorating of the tree, exchanging of gifts and eating of delicious festive treats, sometimes it can feel a lot more like the main event.
However, this doesn't necessarily extend to the food: since, historically, good Christian Germans would have attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the evening meal was generally light, simple and quick to prepare. And because Advent was historically a time of fasting, it would also be meatless.
Plenty of families continue this tradition nowadays - even if they don't necessarily go to church - with fish such as carp, salmon or hake featuring as a centrepiece on many German tables, accompanied by Sauerkraut and fried potatoes. With all the tree-putting-up and present-wrapping, there's a lot to do on Christmas Eve, and so simplicity still rules the day, even for families that are not fond of fish. Other popular meals on Christmas Eve include cheese fondu or sausages with potato salad.
Breakfast on Christmas in Germany
The benefit of holding back on Christmas Eve is that it gives you room to really let rip come Christmas Day. The perfect breakfast is absolutely essential for starting your Christmas in style. In Germany, a Christmas breakfast usually consists of hearty bread, cold meats and cheeses, and eggs, alongside a number of regional dishes; in the north, many families will have fish with their breakfast.
After breakfast, there will be plenty of snacks to keep you from feeling peckish until dinner time. Germans are particularly fond of spiced biscuits and sweetened cakes like Speculaas and Lebkuchen at Christmas.
A German Christmas dinner
It’s probably a good idea to leave a substantial amount of space for dinner, as a traditional German Christmas dinner is a tremendous affair. Weihnachtsgans, or Christmas goose, is a popular choice, although you’ll find plenty of households that opt for turkey or duck. The fowl is usually served roasted and stuffed with apples, dates, chestnuts, and prunes. On the side, many people have bread dumplings (Serviettenknödel), red cabbage, (Rotkohl) and Krautstrudel (a sort of cabbage roll).
There are two stories regarding the origin of goose as the traditional bird of choice for Christmas in Germany. The first stems from Saint Martin who, according to legend, hid among a flock of geese to try to avoid becoming a bishop. Because of this association, it is customary to eat goose on Saint Martin’s Day (November 11). Shortly thereafter, the Advent fasting period begins and continues until Christmas Eve. Another goose is typically prepared to mark the end of the fasting period.
The other story actually stems from the British monarch, Elizabeth I, who was apparently eating goose when she heard of the Spanish Armada’s defeat. To celebrate, she declared goose would be served every Christmas and, while this tradition didn’t persevere in England, it did spread throughout Europe.
Another popular Christmas meal, especially in Bavaria, is a pork roast. The roast is often served with a crispy rind (Krustenbraten), alongside vegetables like carrots and celery, as well as the traditional dumplings and Rotkohl.
If you still have room for dessert after dinner, or you fancy something to nibble on while watching your obligatory Christmas movie, help yourself to a slice of Stollen or Apfelkuchen (apple pie). Stollen is a delicious sweet bread filled with nuts, spices and fruit. It originated in Dresden and has been a staple of German Christmas food for more than 400 years.
Can you order a beer at a German Christmas market?
Another particularly pressing, Christmassy question the internet has been dying to find the answer to is: can you get a beer at a German Christmas market?
This might seem like quite an obvious question, since Germans love both beer and Christmas, so what could be better than combining the two? However, if you ever visit a German Christmas market (in any normal year), you might find that the answer is not as simple as it first seems. Many people have noticed a distinct lack of beer being sold at the stalls, overlooked in favour of the ever-present Glühwein.
It turns out that beer is actually quite a rare commodity at Germany’s Christmas markets, although not impossible to find. There are some Christmas markets, like the Haidhauser Weihnachtsmarkt in Munich, where you can find special Christmas beer. You may also find heated, spiced beer (aptly named Glühbier) at certain Christmas markets too. Something to look out for when the markets (hopefully!) re-open next year.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Now you have all the information you need to bring a sprinkle of Deutschland to your Christmas. You can quite easily find recipes online, should you want to try some German-style food for Christmas dinner this year. You can even find recipes for Glühbier as well, allowing you to bring the spirit of a German Christmas market into your home and hopefully, despite the lockdown restrictions, still make this Christmas a special one.