In the land of ginormous pretzels, beer, and schnitzel, food is clearly of importance. But what do Germans really eat during the holiday season? Although it’s tempting to think that they put on their Lederhosen and go chug peppermint mochas, Germans actually have their own elaborate menu of holiday foods to get them through the chilly season. Here are a few of the best traditions:

1. Sankt Nikolaus (December 6th)

juice, tangerine, citrus, clementine, satsuma, mandarin orange, sweet
Lauren Gong

Imagine the joy of waking up with a whole boot brimming full of chocolate. In fact, German children get to experience that feeling every year. Traditionally it is said that Sankt Nikolaus, or Saint Nicholas, comes to visit all German children during the night of December 6th and fills up the empty boots they place in front of their doors with snacks such as clementines and nuts. However, this custom has been heavily exploited to include significant amounts of chocolates and additional presents as well (you know, things children actually want…) 

2. Advent Calendars

chocolate, coffee, candy, sweet, milk chocolate, milk
Christin Urso

Although Americans have advent calendars too, no one does them quite like the Germans. And in a land with some of the world's best chocolate, this is no surprise. My favorite is the one by Kinder which, at the steep price of $44.99, includes a Kinder Surprise Egg for each day leading up to Christmas. But beware if you do order a German advent calendar, because they will only have chocolates up until December 24th (since that is when presents are received). 

3. Gingerbread

cake, candy, gingerbread, sweet, chocolate, cookie, cream
Ethan Cappello

With the famous story of Hansel and Gretel, it is no wonder that the creation of the Gingerbread house originated in Germany during the 16th century. However, this is not the only form of gingerbread commonly consumed- Germans take their baked goods very seriously and gingerbread is no exception. Head to any Christmas market and you will see dozens of different “Lebkuchen” types, including classic gingerbread men, gingerbread covered in chocolate, gingerbread with cherry filling, and gingerbread hearts decorated with classic German holiday sayings. 

4. Glühwein

beer, coffee, wine, tea
Alex Frank

Another quintessential food found at Christmas Markets? You guessed it- Glühwein. But what is Glühwein really? Although it varies from country to country, the traditional German holiday Glühwein consists of red wine heated with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and citrus. It’s so delicious that even German children are legally allowed to drink it, even though it is definitely alcoholic. 

5. The Christmas Meal

fish, meat, seafood, vegetable, sauce
Jocelyn Hsu

Although it certainly varies from household to household, common Christmas Eve dinners consist of fish, beef, cheese fondue, and a variety of potatoes. However, the Christmas Day meal is the true occasion– a large roasted turkey, duck, or goose. Sound familiar? This German holiday meal is commonly served with bread and braised red cabbage.

6. The New Year's Meal

fondue, soup, cheese, bread
Nikki Naiman

“Silvester” is seen as another food fest and the finale for traditional German holiday foods. Fittingly, the common meals of fondue, raclette, or a hot stone are definitely the best way to go out with a bang. Raclette even involves a table-top device that functions as a mini oven and commonly includes a hot stone on top. With this device, you make your own mini pan of potatoes, vegetables, and melted cheese while your piece of meat or shrimp is being cooked above. The finished products are then completed with a myriad of different sauces. This meal is extremely interactive and a truly unique German experience. 

The Germans really love their Christmas, and what better way to celebrate than with some really delicious traditions filled with chocolate, potatoes, and cheese? I can't think of anything better, except maybe peppermint mochas.