Christmas Eve Dinner in Germany – Würstchen mit Kartoffelsalat?

In the Netflix series “Over Christmas” (Über Weihnachten), the Christmas Eve Dinner is Würstchen und Kartoffelsalat (Sausages and Potato Salad). The Oma complains, saying that it’s also just the regular Thursday meal at her Old Age Home. But as her daughter points out, it’s Tradition, that’s what they’ve ALWAYS had, in fact OMA used to serve it.

Truth is, a 2020 Forsa poll shows that 1 in 5 families in Germany will enjoy a meal of Würstchen und Kartoffelsalat on Christmas Eve.

But Why?

Christmas Eve Dinner in Germany

Since Bescherung, the exchange of Christmas Gifts, happens on Christmas Eve, and often people attend a church service in the evening, no one has time (or desire) to linger in the kitchen. Besides, with a large meal scheduled for Christmas Day, it’s nice to give the cook a break. (Break… hahaha… )

Würstchen (sausages) ok, I get it, they are quick… but why Kartoffelsalat (potato salad)? According to Einfach Tasty, it really is all about the potatoes.  In Catholic areas, from Nov 15 until Dec 25 a sort of Second Lent, also known as the Nativity Fast, is observed. As with the pre-Easter Fast, meat is not on the menu. BUT… potatoes are just fine. Because the kitchen in many households would be busy preparing a giant Christmas feast to break the fast on the 25th… a hearty potato salad would satisfy appetites and lighten the load in the kitchen. And according to the numbers, the Mayonaise version of Potato Salad is most common (my favorite!). Probably because it’s easy to make ahead and set aside. (find LOADS of German Potato Salad Recipes here)

In later years, people added Würstchen, because as we know… German sausages are tasty.

But still, One in FIVE?

I took a simple poll on my social media and newsletter. Granted, most of the readers are here in the US, but since everyone remembers their German roots during the holidays, it seemed a fair question.

What do you serve on Christmas Eve?

And I got some GREAT answers.

Of the 100 answers…. 23 said Würstchen with Potato Salad…  a few said Sausages with Brötchen (maybe they don’t like Kartoffelsalat?) … and another 9 were in the Bratwurst and Sauerkraut camp with my family.

What’s REALLY interesting to me is how the numbers on my informal poll matched up to numbers on the very formal Forsa poll….

Raclette and Fondue – (my poll 11%  / Forsa 17%)
Roast Pork or Beef- (my poll 6% / Forsa 9%)
Fish  (my poll 6% / Forsa 4%)  … with a few even answering Karpfen Blau (Blue Carp)

Forsa’s poll gave no numbers for these foods, but it seems like Rouladen (9%), Schnitzel (4%), and German Aufschnitt or Charcuterie are quite popular (9%) here in the US. Mushroom Soup and Russische Eier (Deviled Eggs) showed up a few times. Overall, most of the responses leaned toward German foods (although there was a “Chinese Take-Out” response…)

There were some fun answers to the poll too. One person said “Take out fried chicken” (I certainly wouldn’t turn that away). Pizza, and chili “made by a German Oma”, were also on the list.

Still, most of the menus are quick, or can be made ahead.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas Eve Dinner lately. This year, the family is coming to my house, and naturally, we will make our family’s standard Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and a rich gravy. Mom will bring Bratwurst from her source (George’s in Calimesa… say “Hi” if you see her there). I’ll make the Sauerkraut ahead (with lots of bacon and wine) and peel the potatoes early in the day to get a jump on things. Like most German Christmas Eve dinners, it’s quick and easy with only limited kitchen time needed (3% of German families will be eating the same!). Then we send the kids out to look at lights and wait for the Christkind to arrive.


Stern-Was es Heiligabend zu essen gibt? Natürlich Wurst!

Einfach Tasty-Ey jo – diesen norddeutschen Kartoffelsalat gibt‘s an Weihnachten natürlich nur mit Mayo

why do germans eat sausage and potato salad on Christmas eve

13 thoughts on “Christmas Eve Dinner in Germany – Würstchen mit Kartoffelsalat?

  1. Your tradition reminds me of my family. We always had to go out and look for the Christmas star which is the brightest, we were told. In the mean time the Christkindl came. We still do this here in the USA even tho the children and grandchildren have grown up. Also Wiener and Kartoffel salad
    for dinner.

  2. Weinies and potato salade is one of my favorite, not just Christmas eve, any time !

  3. Wir hatten immer Fish an Heilig Abend, aber jetzt seit ich Vegan esse, gibt es herrliches Gemüse. Ich bin geborene Berlinerin aber aufgewachsen in der Gegend von Düsseldorf. Ich hatte einen amerikanischen Mann geheiratet und als die Kinder noch klein waren konnte ich Weihnachten feiern wie in Deutschland, aber dan später war es verloren. Weihnachten in America ist nichts für mich und ich bin jetzt alleine.

    1. Ich bin jetzt auch allein, stamme auch aus Berlin. Weihnachten in Amerika… tja, wir können mal darüber reden. Schreiben Sie mir doch mal!

  4. We always have Rouladen and Spaetzle on Christmass EVE. Prepared by our German Oma.
    On Christmas Day, we have whatever our American Family wants. That is when the rest of the Family and Friends come. Works well that way.

  5. We always have Wurstchen and Kartoffelsalat on Christmas Eve! My parents immigrated to Canada in 1952 from Germany and I grew up speaking German. The Xmas Eve tradition continues…along with the nutcrackers and incense

  6. You nailed it: Kartoffelsalat mit Wuerstchen. But with Mayo? Never.

    1. ahhh… but Mayo Kartoffelsalat is the best! 😉

  7. Liebe Karenanne: Ich bin ein American. I have learned German as I am married to a German who was born in Berlin in 1938. After WW II he restarted his schooling in East Berlin until the age of 18 in East Berlin and I have visited his sister and husband both before and after the wall fell! I worked with the military and was in Landstuhl- Ramstein when 911 hit. I feel that the German people were so great to us and I only had a problem with one person who worked in a store in Weisbaden (I was first assigned there) and she saw that I was an American and decided she would make fun of us in the USA with her coworker. I will not go into what she said but when I went to check out I spoke in German and she was pretty embarrassed. My husband just returned home and I asked him if we have Kartoffelsalat und Wuerstchen on Christmas eve and I know we have had it on New Year’ s eve. The reason I wrote to you is to let you know how wonderful it is that we found your web site and I love it all. I am also writing Kerstin who wrote to you on December 20th and mentioned that the American Weinachten is “nichts fuer mich”. I would let her know if she was married to an American man and did or does not take advantage of learning the language we speak here then she should at least write to you in our language . Now I am 82+ years old and have worked in the soviet union and the middle east in health care and just 6 years ago I was seeing children in the remote villages in AK flying in with bush pilots (ERA airlines). I only put all of this in because I have never written or said anything in any place I have worked that would or could be misconstrued by the people I was there to assist in turning their dreams into realities. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 4 years ago. I have decided with all I have seen that I would write to anyone who I thought did not get what is happening here in this country. And I also wanted to write to you and let you know how much we enjoy your website. Thank you for listening to this old lady. I have the outline for a memoir about Kurt’s life and our life together. I only have to fill it in. Oh and I asked Kurt if we could have the Kartoffalsalat und die Wuerstchen for Christmas eve and he went to read Kerstin’s email and did not answer me yet. I take that as a yes! LOL Carol Nickel

    1. Liebe Carol, Thank you so much for your message. It is difficult sometimes when you answer to two cultures. There will always be comparisons… but like you say, it’s nice when you can get along and find thebest where you are.
      I’m delighted that you enjoy the website. It feels good to know that there are people out in the world reading my words and finding a connection.
      PLEASE finish the memoir. Stories should be preserved.
      Frohe Weihnachten! Karen

  8. Karen:
    I cannot tell you how much I look forward to your informative and entertaining emails about Germany. All of my family from 3 generations back were from various areas of Germany and while I studied one year of German in college and loved every minute, sadly, I have no one to practice with and have lost most of what I learned long ago in the 60’s! Your recipes are wonderful…keep them coming. Would love for you to feature each month the cuisine of an area of Germany. I think that would be most interesting. Again, thank you so much for your emails….they educational yet fun to read. I would also be interested in the recipes, history and art of pressed pattern springerle cookie.

    1. That is a great idea! I’m working on setting up my editorial calendar for the year… this would work

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