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Advent in Germany

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The Advent season is eagerly awaited by many Germans as they enjoy the anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Christmas. On the third Advent, we look at some of the traditional customs and activities of the ‘Adventszeit’ in Germany, including the world's largest Advent candle.

The people of Schlitz, a small town in eastern Hessen, mark Advent by transforming their 36m tower into the world's largest Advent candle. The 14th century tower is draped in red fabric and a 6m 'flame' consisting of 140 lightbulbs is mounted on the top of the tower, providing spectacular views of the town's Christmas market and the surrounding area.

Four candles that represent light and hope

World's biggest Advent candle in Schlitz
World's biggest Advent candle in Schlitz© picture alliance / Boris Roessle

Today, four candles are placed on an Advent wreath, one for each Sunday during Advent. The candles represent light and hope which were traditionally meant to defend against evil forces during the long winter months.

During their childhood, most German's will have learnt a popular song called 'Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt', which is often recited when a candle is lit on 'Adventskranz'

People have been using the ‘Adventszeit’ for a long time to remember their friends and relatives, or to show them that they are thinking of them. Christmas cards are ideal for this purpose and small children often make their own at school.

Adventzeit means Weihnachtsmarktzeit!

If you’re out and about in the city centre, chances are you’ll end up in the midst of a Christmas market. And what would the Advent season be without them? The first Christmas markets, originally built around churches, first took place in the 17th century. Today, the most popular items for sale are Christmas stollen, nativity figures sets, straw stars, tinsel, baubles and much more. Mulled wine, or ‘Glühwein’, a beverage of European origins usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins is a must have when at the Christmas market.

If you want to get into the festive spirit, check out our interactive map to find a German Christmas market happening near you during this special time of the year!

A long-standing tradition

The origins of the Advent season celebrations go back to the time of Saint Gregory the Great (540 – 604), who encouraged the early Christian believers to prepare themselves for the birth of Jesus Christ during the Advent (Latin for "the coming").

Many Germans make (or buy) their own Advent wreath. This tradition dates back to 1839, when the Hamburg theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern ran the ‘Rauhe Haus’, an old farmhouse which was used as a children's home. He decorated a chandelier with fir branches and put 24 candles on it; one for every day in December until Christmas, similar to an Advent Calendar.

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