8 ways you know it's Advent in Germany

Culture

Chocolate Santas fly from the shelves

Admittedly, Christmas treats already hit supermarket shelves back in late summer. But have they started disappearing more quickly? Then that's a sure sign Advent is here. That's particularly true of chocolate Santas because St. Nikolaus Day is celebrated on December 6. On that day, kids in Germany wake up to find their shoe filled with sweets, including an edible version of the holiday's namesake.

Culture

Sweet smells waft in from next door

In addition to buying excessive amounts of Christmas treats once Advent has arrived, many people also bake them at home. A few of the most popular homemade cookies in Germany are pictured here: spritz cookies, cinnamon stars and almond crescents covered in powdered sugar. Now is a good time to strike up a conversation with your neighbor — you might find yourself on his cookie list.

Culture

Shops are open on Sunday

In general, stores are closed on Sundays in Germany. Rules dictating when shops may open vary slightly from state to state, but most allow for only a handful of exceptions concerning the traditional day of rest. While a rare shopping Sunday may be scheduled at other times of year, most exceptions are planned during the Advent season so no one has an excuse for showing up to Christmas empty-handed.

Culture

Advent wreaths light up

Festive Advent wreaths — consisting of fresh greenery and four candles — are very common in Germany. While some people decide to make their own, ready-made varieties are also available at every florist. One candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent leading up to Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent falls on December 3 this year.

Culture

Christmas markets open across Germany

Germany is world-famous for its Christmas markets and nearly every city and village in the country has one. Many begin selling mulled wine, tasty treats and handicrafts even before the start of Advent. This year, some markets opened as early as November 25. When rows of huts start popping up in German towns, Advent is around the corner.

Culture

Glühwein, anyone?

Mulled wine is certainly a holiday favorite in Germany. It's made from red (or sometimes white) wine, spices like cinnamon and cardamom, sugar and a dash of citrus. While it's a staple at every German Christmas market, it can also be easily made at home. Don't expect to be offered a "Glühwein" in November, but come Advent, it suddenly becomes OK to drink the stuff — at nearly any time of day.

Culture

Germany lights up

After daylight savings time ends, the days start getting very short. By Advent, it gets completely dark by 5:00 p.m. in Germany. But if you haven't even noticed the darkness because the city is awash in white lights, then Advent is close or already underway. That makes January seem all the more dreary, though...

Culture

Someone left you an Advent calendar

Advent calendars were first used by Lutherans in 19th-century Germany. Since then, the tradition has spread across the world but remains very popular in Germany. Chocolate is the most common gift behind each of the 24 doors — but you'll also find anything from Legos to sex toys. Has your loved one left you 24 surprises?

Christmas is around the corner, and the countdown starts weeks ahead of time with Advent. Here's how you can't miss it in Germany.

Can you smell that? If you've got cinnamon, cardamom and sugar in your nose, then there's a good chance the Advent season is getting underway. Christmas begins early in Germany and Advent - the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve - are celebrated with tasty treats, wreaths and calendars, and trips to the holiday markets. 

Click through the gallery above for surefire signs that Advent has arrived in Germany. Here, Advent calendars are particularly popular. For a look at some impressive examples, click through the gallery below. 

Culture

Chocolate delights

These chocolate Advent calendars have been around since the 1950s. You can't really go wrong with these: What kid doesn't like chocolate? Pictured here is an employee in the Wergona chocolate factory in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. Each year, they make more than 30 million calendars, shipping them to 52 countries.

Culture

Handmade

If the bog-standard machine-made calendar sounds a bit too lazy, try making your own. German parents are really into handmade calendars like the one pictured. Some even spend several months collecting little presents to put in each bag or bootee. Mind you, you can buy these calendars and just add the content if crafting's not your strong point.

Culture

Counting down to Christmas

This calendar from 1910 just showed pictures. In fact, you had to take each picture from a separate sheet, cut it out and put it into the right place. From 1920 onward, calendars had little doors that you could open to reveal a picture. No sweets, granted, but it was a fun way to count down to Christmas, which was and still is the purpose of an Advent calendar.

Culture

Festive plastic

If you were born in Germany in the past 40 years, chances are you played with Playmobil. It was also the first toy firm to add Advent calendars to its range. Denmark's Lego followed suit in 2004. So, if you don't want your child to eat too much chocolate, it's a good, albeit costlier, alternative.

Culture

Not just for kids

We all like presents, which is why Advent calendars are not just for children. Yes, this Lego Star Wars calendar is for little ones, but you don't stop liking Star Wars just because you're older, right? Alternatively, you could go for a calendar with beauty products, fancy tea bags or craft beer. You can even get them for cats and dogs.

Culture

Erotic surprises ...

... are in store, apparently, if you go for this calendar by Orion. Definitely one for the grown-ups.

Culture

Virtual fun

Forgot to make or buy one? There are plenty of virtual calendars you can register for. Like this one from the Germany Football Association. Each day from December 1 to 24, you can win various match tickets and merchandise.

Culture

Advent calendar house

Thorsten Erny, mayor of Gengenbach in Germany's southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, calls it the "world's biggest Advent calendar house." It will show a different character from children's books in a different window each day from November 30 to Christmas Eve.

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