December is one of the best months to travel Germany. The country started many of the most beloved Christmas traditions (Christmas tree anyone?) and its many Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), ice rinks and delicious Christmas foods and sweets set the scene for a magical holiday.
Pack some warm clothes and enjoy Germany's holiday season with the best Christmas events, festivals and spectacular New Year's Eve events. Here are the best events and festivals in Germany in December.
01 of 09
German Christmas markets are a wonderful part of the holiday tradition and a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. Almost every German city celebrates the season with a least one Christmas market (Berlin is home to at least 70 different Christmas markets!). German Weihnachtsmärkte usually start on the the last weekend of November and last at least until Christmas Day, and sometimes into early January.
When: last weekend of November - end of December/early January
02 of 09
On December 1st, Munich commemorates World Aids Day with a candle-light-walk through its city center. Join thousands of locals at Odeonsplatz, in front of the Field Marshall's Hall, and walk Munich's streets to St. Lukas Church, where a service with meditation and music will be held to remember the victims of AIDS.
When: December 1st
Where: Odeonsplatz, Munich
03 of 09
If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss the largest chocolate festival in Germany. It is held in Tübingen, a traditional university town in the southwest of Germany, and admission is free.
Visit the open-air market in the Old Town, which offers chocolate delicacies from around the world, and indulge in mouthwatering activities like chocolate-making classes, chocolate massages, tasting sessions, and chocolate art exhibitions.
When: November 29-December 4
04 of 09
Sankt Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas) gets his own day in Germany and has to be a favorite for children. Tradition holds that on the night of December 5, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus goes from house to house with gifts. He is paired with a darker, devil-like character, Krampus, who scares bad little boys and girls. This might sound quite familiar, but it is obviously held much earlier in the month than North America's Christmas Santa.
Today's German children usually celebrate Nikolaustag and the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas). On December 5th, children clean their boots and leave them by the window or the door. They wake the next morning to find small gifts, oranges and nuts tucked into their shoes.
When: December 6
Where: GermanyContinue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Stollen Festival in Dresden
Dresden is the country's oldest Christmas Market and it celebrates Germany's famous Christmas fruitcake with a special "Stollen Festival". Expect no less than the world's biggest Christmas cake, weighing 4 tons and measuring 13 feet in length.
Before sampling a piece of the super-stollen, which is filled with nuts, candied orange peel and spices, watch the traditional procession of hundreds of pastry chefs, who will carry the giant treat through Dresden's Old Town.
When: Traditionally held on the Saturday before the second Sunday of Advent
Where: Dresden's Christmas Market
06 of 09
Since the 14th century, Hamburg celebrates the DOM, one of the largest open-air fun fairs in the North of Germany. Bring the whole family for ferries wheels, roller coasters, concerts, and fireworks.
When: November 11 - December 3, 2017
Where: Heiligengeistfeld, Hamburg
07 of 09
Christmas is a big deal in Germany. But all this Christmas mania is forgetting another important holiday, Hanukkah. This sacred Jewish holiday is known as the "Festival of Lights" and is especially poignant in Germany. The Jewish community is still just a fraction of the size it was prior to World War II, but its rebirth shows a growing vibrancy and assertiveness.
To commemorate the holiday in the capital of Germany, the largest menorah in Europe is lit in front of the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) on the first night of Hanukkah. There are a variety of society events, such as the Grand Hyatt Berlin's exclusive Hanukkah Ball. The website chabad.org can help you find events in your area.
The well-respected Jewish Museum in Berlin is also a great resource for finding local celebrations. The museum usually hosts a market, but that will not be held in 2015. The Jewish Museum in Frankfurt is also worth checking out for events and lectures.
When: December 24 - January 1, 2016
08 of 09
The highlight of the German holiday season is Holy Eve on December 24th. Shops and offices close early that day (around noon or 2 pm), the Christmas tree at home is illuminated, presents are opened, and many people visit a Christmas mass. Some families wait for this day to do everything from buying the tree to decorating to presents.
December 25th and 26th are both federal holidays. German shops are closed, and families concentrate on the important things in life; visiting friends, relaxing, watching a Christmas movie, and eating hearty German food. Many Christmas markets are open on the 25th and that is a fun activity for this joyous day.
For the week between Christmas and New Years, things start to return back to normal but stay fairly quiet. Until New Years that is....
When: December 24 - 26
Where: GermanyContinue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
New Year's Eve Party in Berlin
Silvester (New Year's Eve) in Germany is a fiery affair. Fireworks are suddenly on sale everywhere from the grocery store to roadside stands and small explosions lead up to the main event on the 31st. Watch "Dinner for One" and participate in all of the odd German New Years traditions, or join one of the many parties.
Berlin throws one of the biggest open-air parties in the world. Shake off the old year and celebrate Silvester German style at the Brandenburg Gate, the national symbol of Germany. You can celebrate all night long with music, dancing, and spectacular fireworks.
When: December 31
Where: Brandenburg Gate, Berlin