Advent is the time of preparation for Christmas. It is the time of Christmas markets and brightly lit streets. Colorful decorations hang everywhere. People also decorate their houses with Christmas figures, ornaments and fir branches. Advent is also the time when people put up an Adventskranz (Advent wreath) and start baking the first Christmas cookies. An Adventskranz ist a decorated wreath tied from green fir branches and on the wreath are four candles.
Advent season starts 4 weeks before Christmas. Each Sunday during Advent, a new candle is lit on the Adventskranz. Families gather around the wreath on each Advent Sunday to light the next candle, sing Christmas carols, and eat cookies. On the first Sunday only one candle is lit, on the second Sunday two candles, on the third three candles and on the last Sunday all candles. People also sing a traditional Advent Song:
This tradition was even more important in the past, when the Christmas tree was usually reserved for a special unveiling only on Christmas Eve. Until then, the Advent wreath provided the holiday look and special festive aroma in the house. Preparing for Christmas also includes lots of baking.
Typical ingredients for traditional Christmas cookies are hazelnuts, honey, cinnamon, ginger and marzipan. Popular Christmas cookies are Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Butterplätzchen (butter cookies), Makronen (macaroons), Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents), and Nougatkipferl (nougat crescents).
Another well-known German specialty is Christstollen. It is a cake-like fruit bread filled with nuts, cinnamon, dried fruit, and sometimes marzipan. If you want to bake a Christstollen, watch this easy-to-follow instructional video: Dresdner Christstollen original recipe.
Children and their parents will often bake a “Hexenhäuschen” (gingerbread hourse). The house is based on the Grimm's fairy tale "Hänsel and Gretel". It is made of gingerbread and decorated with candies and icing.
When exactly is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of Advent?
Advent season varies in length from 22 to 28 days, as the beginning of Advent does not fall on the same date every year. Advent has four Sundays and always begins on the fourth Sunday before December 25. However, if Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is thus also the fourth Sunday of Advent. This year, for example, Advent begins on November 27.