Combining German & American Christmas Traditions

I wanted to share with you all a message that I got from Patricia about combining German and American Christmas Traditions. She’s in a spot that I KNOW is familiar to many of you.

She Writes-

I am in a real predicament with Christmas. My twins are now three and understand Christmas. Both German and because of cartoons American. We put up the tree tonight. Didn’t really give them an answer as to why. Tomorrow we go to my mothers for Christmas. Of course other family will be there with presents. I don’t know what to do. I am thinking that there will be no presents at first. We have our traditional dinner and then take the girls out to see lights while the Weihnachtsman comes and then open presents. My husband is American so of course he wants to do presents in the morning. For now I am going to tell the girls that Santa comes to America in the morning. So they will have two Santa’s. One at Oma’s and one at home. This will be a real first for me in the morning. I am hoping that maybe you could post a blog on how to handle this in the years to come or ask other families how they handle it. So confused at this point. Thank you so much. Patricia”

I don’t know if I was much help… but this is what I passed along from my experience, and the experience of other German Girls who married Americans…..

I totally understand your predicament! In our home, when I was growing up, my parents were able to use the “Santa comes early to German kids in America” line…. Then I married an American. He didn’t have any other family nearby, so there was grumbling, but he went along with my family’s way of doing things… and we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve. My kids loved this, because they got their presents before their friends (and I love not having to get up at 5 am on Christmas).

Christmas Day we all sleep in a bit, then have a special Christmas Breakfast. In the afternoon we have a dinner of Goose, Rotkohl and Klösse. German friends come to visit, and there is cake, coffee and an afternoon of Gemütlichkeit.

So, I’m afraid that doesn’t help you much.

I will share with you what my friend does. We grew up together, and her family celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family.  She is German, and married an American with a HUGE family who thrives on their Christmas Traditions. They worked out a compromise. On Christmas Eve, they celebrate with Her parents.. traditional German Foods, singing, church and then the kids take a walk while the special “German Weihnachtsmann”  (or Christkind) comes to visit Oma’s house for them. The kids get presents from the German Weihnachtsmann and from their Oma/Opa. The next morning the kids go to the husband’s family, where they get presents under the tree from the family and a few more from “Santa”. (It helps/complicates things that the family gives gifts anonymously and writes “from Santa” on every tag.)

My suggestion to you… Have your German Christmas with your mother, let her give them a gift, and gifts under the tree from the Christkind or German Santa. The kids will love the nighttime experience… then in the morning… they can open other family gifts and something else from Santa.

Remember, however you do it, the kids will love it. They will love you, and their family, and just enjoy the heck out of the tradition. Don’t worry if they don’t get piles of gifts, or have a clear story like the neighbors. You create your traditions. Even something small… like a book or chocolates… becomes special if you add some magic. If it’s any help, my daughter, who is now 20, tells me that she never felt confused by having a German Heiligabend, and plans to continue the tradition when she has a family.(In fact, all of my kids love that they got to open presents early.)

You could also consider adding other German Christmas Traditions for Kids to your celebrations – Advent Calendars, St Nicholas Tag and more…. Here’s a list of Traditions to try–> German Christmas Traditions for kids

One more thing, and I know this might spark some controversy or irritation. Your Christmas Traditions are just as important as your husband’s. If you want to make Christmas Eve a special time for you and your family, then you SHOULD. A bit of compromise is always good, but there is no reason for you to give up Heiligabend.

I hope I helped a little?

Wishing you all the best for Christmas and a Frohe Weihnachten!


Here are some books that might help.

Frohliche Weihnachten: Learning Songs & Traditions in German Book & Audio CD (Teach Me) (Teach Me Series) (German and English Edition)Frohliche Weihnachten: Learning Songs & Traditions in German Book & Audio CD (Teach Me) (Teach Me Series) (German and English Edition)Oma and Me: A Christmas StoryOma and Me: A Christmas StoryChristmas in Germany (Christmas around the World)Christmas in Germany (Christmas around the World)


combining christmas traditions


11 thoughts on “Combining German & American Christmas Traditions

  1. My father is German and we celebrated with his family on Christmas Eve, in the same way you do. On Christmas Day we had gifts from Santa, then had an American Christmas with my mother’s family. When I was younger I didn’t appreciate the differences in the celebrations, but now that I’m older I long for those differences. If it’s not too difficult for you, I would hope you can continue combining the celebrations of both cultures. I’m sure your children will cherish those memories in years to come. So much of the tradition of Christmas is from the German culture, and I appreciate the German contribution to the celebration so much more because I was exposed to the “German way” of celebrating when I was young.

    1. My kids love celebrating the “German Way”

  2. My Omi and Opa lived in a different city from my Canadian Grandparents, so we had one year German and one year Canadian/English style. I have always loved having both traditions!

  3. Please keep both alive for your children. I have done both in my lifetime, but there is a “magical” aspect or something special about the Christmas Eve traditions from my german heritage. We should preserve these things. .

  4. My German roots are still alive with Christmas Eve being the main celebration with all the beauty and charm that only the night can bring. When I married and had children, we were at Oma’s house for Christmas Eve and we had our Christmas morning at home and then of to the grandparents. There was never any confusion or questions about why we did it this way- it just was. My mother has long since passed, but we still have the same tradition – same type of evening meal with all the candle glow and the opening of gifts as when we were children. I do remember that November 6th was St. Nicolas day(with black Peter) from my childhood, and that Christmas was a more solem occasion on the 24th evening. After that , it always the 1st Christmas Day and the 2nd to visit, and entertain,

    1. I will keep that tradition, and I feel like my kids will fight to keep it too.

  5. Wishing all of you a glorious Christmas. In my mothers house at 6pm sharp a little silver bell went off. My mom always made me lie down for A while. I hopped out of bed, got dressed in a hurry and went to the Christmas room. The eldest in the family read the story of the birth of Christ. Then all the children said their learned poems. Christmas music was playing and we all held hands and sang. Sometimes the children preformed a small act of Mary and Joseph in Bethleham. Than we opened our presents. After that we kept company with family members for a while. Just before midnight we ate potato salad and wieners and dashed of to Church. Large snowflakes were falling down on us and everything was lit up and bundled up. Some people came to Church in a horse drawn sleet. The whole world knew we were celebrating the birth of Christ. We were surounded with the feeling of love for each other. It was so beautiful. I never forget my German Christmas. This is most likely my last Christmas here on earth. Ich wuensche Euch allen ein shoenes Wheinachtfest.

  6. In my family (Austrian mother, American father) we celebrated Christmas Morning the American way, until we three kids were older and no longer Santa believers. We then switched to a Christmas Eve observance, including exchange of gifts, and spent Christmas Day visiting relatives in town. My Austrian Großmama (Oma to you Germans) came over for a few months every few years. A fun-loving woman, really full of life, she would liven up the holidays in many way, not the least of which with her formidable culinary skills. Years later, when only my mother and I were the only family left in town, we would have a nice dinner together and listen to Austrian Christmas music every Christmas Eve. Frohe Weihnachten to all!

    1. It sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas. Thank you.

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