Christmas in Germany: Advent
In Germany Advent is called Lichtwochen, which means "light weeks.” The Germans observe Advent with Advent wreaths and Advent calendars. These two customs, German in origin, have spread far beyond Germany. Carol singing is another popular Advent and Christmas custom. One of the world’s most popular Christmas carols, "Silent Night,” was originally composed in German by an Austrian priest and his organist. Other internationally known carols of German origin include "In Dulci Jubilo” (also known as "Good Christian Men Rejoice”), "Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming,” and "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree.” Germany’s famous Christmas markets offer another way to prepare for Christmas. Traditional German Christmas foods, crafts, and gifts can be found at their many, busy stalls. The famous Nuremberg market opens on the Friday closest to St. Barbara’s Day, December 4, although most Christmas markets are open throughout Advent.
Frauentragen, or "woman carrying,” an old German Advent custom still practiced in some areas, closely resembles the Hispanic folk play Las Posadas. Children carry a picture or figurine representing the Virgin Mary to a neighborhood home. Once there they sing or enact a brief scene from the Nativity story, say a prayer, and place the picture or figurine near the family crucifix. The children return for the image the following evening and carry it to a new home. In this way they act out Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.
On Christmas Eve the children carry Mary back to the church, where she takes her place in the Nativity scene.