Thursday, December 11, 2008

German Advent Traditions

Photo: Xanesmommy

Advent, Advent,
ein Lichtlein brennt,
erst eins,
dan zwei,
dann drei,
dann vier,
dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.

Adventszeit, the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas, is a wonderful time for singing, baking, making crafts and gifts and spending time with family and friends. It’s fun to bring German traditions and culture into your family, and reinforce the German language you are using with them.

Photo: PetroleumJelliffe

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, winter days are short and dark. Advent wreaths and Advent calendars help children mark the time until the birth of Jesus on December 25. Last Sunday, November 30, was the first Sunday in Advent 2008. The first candle in your Advent wreath should have been lit. Next Sunday, December 7, light the first candle and a new one so that 2 candles are lit. Use the candle lighting as an reason to spend time with your families, read a Christmas story, sing a song and enjoy special cookies or Stollen.

Create your own Adventskranz
An Advent wreath (der Adventskranz oder österreichisch Adventkranz) is often simply 4 red pillar candles surrounded by a wreath of pine or fir branches, then decorated with nuts, ribbons, berries or other items. It can be as simple or as decorated as you want to make it. One year, we had a platter filled with nuts in their shells and 4 candles. Simple but elegant. For smaller kids, have them cut out of red paper 4 rectangles of different heights for the candles. Glue them to a green paper rectangle (wreath base). Each Sunday add a yellow flame.

Advent calendars are meant to count every day from December 1 until December 24. They come in many styles. Originally they were pictures behind the doors, but now the most popular style has chocolates behind the doors (die Türchen). You can even find them filled with LEGO or Playmobil figures! If you have time, it is fun to make your own and fill the numbered boxes or bags with special items for your children. The SWR-Kindernetz website has several ideas with photo tutorials.

Several websites host online Adventkalenders, including:

* KI.KA – hosted by Beutolomäus and your favorite TV characters from Germany’s kids TV channel, also includes games, recipes, stories (about Bratapfel, die Kerzen am Adventskranz, and a kleinen Weihnachtsbaum), crafts, singing and coloring.
* SWR-Kindernetz – the gingerbread house advent calendar has games and activities behind the windows, many involving Janosch’s Tigerenten Club characters.
* – hosts an MP3 Adventskalender, also has poems and stories including several by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens, songs and recipes.

To get you in the Christmas mood, we recommend Rolf Zuckowski’s wonderful CD Wir warten auf Weihnachten. For a great story and explanation of a typical German Christmas, listen to Conni feiert Weihnachten. For more activities, try Advent und Weihnachten mit Kindern erlebt” and Kinder feiern Weihnachten.

Wishing you a happy holiday season!

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