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Christmas in Germany

Silent night, holy night – Christmas in Germany

When the air starts smelling like roasted almonds, when the city center is immersed in warm lights and when children start to sing their hearts out on the streets, then you know it`s time for one of the most important German Christmas traditions: The Christmas Market. The idea of this pre-Christmas market originates in the Late Middle Ages when people bought goods to prepare for the cold wintertime. Throughout the years also craftsmen, toymakers and confectioners were allowed to sell their products, contributing to the Christmas market as it is today. Traditionally, the market starts in the last week of November and lasting until Christmas Eve. A very curious thing about this time of the year is that the oh-so-beer-loving Germans start to drink wine. Glühwein, to be specific. This is a sort of punch, consisting of red wine, cinnamon, oranges, cardamom and sometimes anise. Thanks to all the spices and the fact that this “burning wine” as you would translate it, is heated up before drunken, it warms you up from the inside. This makes it a perfect and convenient warmup when strolling the Christmas Markets.

Another more recent, but not less popular tradition is one of the Advent calendars. Originating in Germany, these calendars have their origins in the middle of the 19th century and were invented by Protestants. Back then, the calendars either had the form of 24 small pictures or there were 24 chalk lines on the wall, of which the children were allowed to swipe one away every day. In catholic households, however, every day one straw was added to the nativity scene. Either way, the idea behind these calendars was to shorten the time until Christmas Eve and to increase the joyful anticipation. Nowadays, every supermarket sells advent calendars filled with chocolate. The lucky children, however, get a self-made advent calendar, filled with sweets and small presents.

Besides drinking hot wine and eating tons of chocolate, also baking biscuits make up a huge part of the pre-Christmas time. The typical so-called Plätzchen are cookies made out of shortcrust and are formed by using cookie cutters. Another typical sweet is the Christstollen (eng.: Christmas stollen) which is a bread-formed cake, baked with yeast dough and powdered with icing sugar. This cake is quite popular because it originates from Germany. Also powdered with icing sugar is Vanillekipferl. The dough consisting of shortcrust, they are formed to small croissants (because of Kipferl = croissant) and taste like vanilla and nuts.

Besides that, there are many more traditions to be found in Germany. Not lastly, because many of them actually, like the Christmas tree, actually derive from Germany. So grab your Glühwein and cheers to all the beautiful traditions that make Christmas such a beautiful occasion!

The text was written in September 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Rebecca, 25 years old, from Germany and fortunately not anymore “the new one” in the Madeira Heritage voluntary program. Experienced and educated in social psychology, but still not able to read people’s minds. Passionate about (classical) music, interculturality, and other


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.