Some examples of the
many Christmas songs we have borrowed from the Germans are
both of which were originally written in German. The tunes of many other German Christmas songs are familiar to Americans.
We have also copied
some, but not all parts, of their other traditions. In both countries
we put up Christmas trees, we sing carols, and exchange gifts with our
families and friends. The decorating of Christmas trees is also a
German tradition. In Germany they put candles on their trees to light
them instead of using electric lights. They also put wreaths with
candles on their heads for Santa Lucia Eve and Day (December
12th/13th), which is a custom Americans do not generally observe.
In Germany, many
children receive Advent calendars, which begin on December 1st, and
have surprises behind a door for each day up to the 25th. December 6th
is Sankt Nikolaus Day, when a man dressed like Santa Claus reads from
his book of good and bad deeds, and gives the good children candies. In
Berchtesgaden, he is accompanied by several henchmen (known as Krampus), who are there to take care of the bad children (and
beat anyone they like with switches). They wear large furry costumes,
with cowbells to warn of their arrival. All across the country,
children set out their shoes that night, and parents put candies and
trinkets in them for the next morning.
Celebrating the twelve days of Christmas comes from Germany, although celebrating Christmas over a twelve day period is uncommon in the United States. These twelve days of Christmas span from Christmas day to January 6th, Epiphany. Each day, everyone gives small gifts (lords-a-leapin', partridges in pear trees, etc.).
Our celebration is
similar, because we put out stockings on Christmas Eve for Santa to
fill, and give gifts on Christmas. We also remember the Christmas
season with Advent calenders. Fortunately or unfortunately, we do not
derive any aerobic benefit from being chased by Krampus.