German Christmas Vocabulary
An English-German Glossary
Christmas - Weihnachten
An annotated Christmas and Advent glossary for German
Noun genders are indicated by: r (der, masc.), e (die, fem.), s (das, neu.)
Abbreviations: adj. (adjective), n. (noun), pl. (plural), v. (verb)
Advent r Advent
Advent calendar(s) r Adventskalender (-)
Advent season e Adventszeit
Advent wreath r Adventskranz
Advent (Latin for "arrival, coming") is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. In German-speaking countries and most of Europe the first Advent weekend is the traditional beginning of the Christmas season when open-air Christmas markets (Christkindlmärkte) appear in many cities, the most famous ones being those in Nuremberg and Vienna. Most stores and shops in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are open weekends and evenings during Advent. - In Austria the 's' is often dropped in Advent-words (as in Adventzeit or Adventkalender). - See our special Advent Calendar with daily Christmas facts!
angel(s) r Engel (-)
baked goods, pastry s Gebäck
See our German Christmas Recipes
Barbara Branch Barbarazweig - A pre-Christmas custom celebrated in Catholic regions on Dec. 4th, the traditional feast day of St. Barbara (Barbaratag). See our feature: Barbara: The Name, the Legend.
Basel chocolate balls Basler Brunsli - A sweet confection made with chocolate, almonds, and hazelnut; a Christmas treat.
Baumkuchen r Baumkuchen - "Tree cake" is a layered cake whose interior resembles (Christmas) tree rings when cut.
bell e Glocke, s Glöckchen (little bell)
Bible e Bibel
Also see: Die Bibel - Weihnachten
bow (ribbon) (n.) e Schleife
candle(s) e Kerze (-n)
Candles, with their light and warmth, have long been used in winter celebrations as symbols of the sun in the dark of winter. The Christians later adopted candles as their own symbol of the "Light of the World." Candles also play an important role in the eight-day Jewish "Festival of Lights" Hanukkah celebration.
candy, sweets s/r Bonbon (-s), Süssigkeiten (pl.)
carol(s), Christmas carol(s) s Weihnachtslied (-er)
carp (n.) r Karpfen (-)
Carp is considered a Christmas or New Year's delicacy in many parts of Germany.
chimney r Schornstein
choir r Chor
crèche, manger e Krippe
Christ Child s Christkind, s Christkindl
The word "Kris Kringle" is a corruption of Christkindl. The word came into American English via the Pennsylvania Germans, whose neighbors misunderstood the German word for the bringer of gifts. With the passage of time, Santa Claus (from Dutch "Sinterclaas") and Kris Kringle became synonymous. The Austrian town of Christkindl bei Steyr is a popular Christmas post office, an Austrian "North Pole."
Christmas s Weihnachten (sing., pl.), s Weihnachtsfest
Es weihnachtet. It's Christmas./Christmas is coming.
Frohe Weihnachten! Merry/Happy Christmas!
Also see: Die Bibel - Weihnachten (The Bible - Christmas)
Christmas bread/cake, fruit cake (n.) r Stollen, r Christstollen, r Striezel (dial.)
Christmas card(s) e Weihnachtskarte (-n)
Send digital Greetings of the Season to anyone with an email address... free!
Christmas Eve r Heiligabend
Christmas market(s) r Weihnachtsmarkt (-märkte), r Christkindlesmarkt
Christmas pyramid e Weihnachtspyramide (-n)
Originally from the Erzgebirge region of Germany, the wood or rope pyramid was the "poor man's Christmas tree." Today it is a popular Christmas decoration in many parts of Germany, usually made with candles and bells that ring as the heat from the candles turns a wooden rotor at the top.
Christmas tree r Christbaum, r Tannenbaum, r Weihnachtsbaum
The first Christmas tree to decorate the inside of the White House was put up by US President Franklin Pierce in 1856. (German immigrants brought the custom to America.) In England Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, helped popularize the Christmas tree and other German Christmas customs.
cinnamon star(s) r Zimtstern (-e) - Star-shaped, cinnamon-flavored Christmastime cookies
cookies (pl.) Kekse, Kipferln, Plätzchen
See our German Christmas Recipes
cradle, crèche e Krippe, s Kripplein, e Wiege
crescent(s) s Kipferl (-n) - Also see: cookies, vanilla crescent(s) Vanillekipferl(n)
decorate (v.) schmücken, verzieren, dekorieren
decoration(s) (Christmas) r Weihnachtsschmuck
Dresden Christmas [fruit] bread/loaf Dresdner Weihnachtsstollen
See our Recipe for Dresdner Stollen
eggnog r Eierlikör (similar but not the same as eggnog)
Epiphany s Dreikönigsfest (Jan. 6)
Father Christmas, Santa Claus r Weihnachtsmann
In the 16th century Protestants, led by Martin Luther, introduced "Father Christmas" to replace Saint Nicholas and to avoid the Catholic saints. In the Protestant parts of Germany and Switzerland, Saint Nicholas became der Weihnachtsmann ("Christmas Man"). In the U.S. he came to be known as Santa Claus, while in England children look forward to a visit from Father Christmas.
fir/pine branch r Tannenzweig
fir tree r Tannenbaum (-bäume)
Originally, most German Christmas trees were fir trees (Tannenbäume). Over the years, as the percentage of fir trees in German forests dropped, spruce trees (Fichtenbäume) became more prevalent. But today the word Tannenbaum is still synonymous with "Christmas tree."
fireplace r Kamin
frankincense r Weihrauch
fruit bread, Christmas bread r Stollen, s Kletzenbrot (an Alpine rye bread containing dried pears, Kletzen, and various spices)
See our German Christmas Recipes
garland (n.) e Girlande (-n)
gift(s), present(s) s Geschenk (-e)
Caution! The German word das Gift means "poison." If you are mailing a present to German Europe, you may wish to mark it with the German word Geschenk, in addition to "gift."
gift giving, exchange of presents e Bescherung
gingerbread r Lebkuchen
glass ball e Glaskugel (-n)
Happy New Year! Prosit Neujahr!
holy (adj.) heilig
holly (n.) e Stechpalme
In pagan times, holly was believed to have magical powers that kept evil spirits away. The Christians later made it a symbol of Christ's crown of thorns. According to legend, the holly berries were originally white, but turned red from Christ's blood.
ice s Eis
icicle(s) r Eiszapfen (-), (tinsel) s Eis-Lametta
ice skate(s) r Schlittschuh (-e)
ice skate (v.) Eislaufen, Schlittschuhlaufen
ice skating s Eislaufen
Jesus Jesus (YEA-zoos), Jesulein (Baby Jesus)
king(s) r König (-e)
Three Kings (Wise Men) die Heiligen Drei Könige, die Weisen
Kipferl(n) (n.) s Kipferl (-n) - An Austrian Christmas cookie. See: vanilla crescents Vanillekipferln
Krampus r Krampus - See Ruprecht
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