Christmas presents in Germany – traditions and new trends
It is almost impossible to imagine a typical German Christmas without Christmas presents. Families exchange gifts with each other in the early evening of 24 December and many German children believe up until primary school age that either the Christ child or Santa Claus brings their presents in person. In recent years, however, many German families have begun to wonder whether they should reconsider this popular tradition and maybe change the way they give gifts at Christmas time.
For a lot of people, the most important part of the German Christmas celebration is when the gifts are exchanged. On December 24th, which is also called Christmas Eve, Christmas presents are exchanged between family members in living rooms throughout Germany. This tends to be a particularly festive occasion. People dress up nicely, the candles that decorate the Christmas tree are lit and many families sing Christmas carols. Only then they may open the Christmas presents that have often been waiting for them under the Christmas tree. This is especially exciting for children. They hope that the Christ child or Santa Claus received their wish lists in time and brought them the right presents for Christmas.
Christmas presents without boundaries
Needless to say, adults feel good if they are able to satisfy the wishes of their children and other family members and delight in their presents with them. In recent years, however, wish lists have become longer and longer, each request is more and more costly, and the strain placed on family finances has grown. Presents pile up under the tree and those receiving gifts hardly have time to get excited about one Christmas present before they have to open the next.
A great many superfluous objects are bought and then thrown away again soon after. People who do not have much money often spend a lot more on Christmas presents than they can actually afford, just so that their children do not feel worse off than their friends. The retail sector lures shoppers before Christmas with seemingly favourable rates for credit and payment by instalments. This makes it very tempting to spend more than one should.
The Hoppenstedt family celebrate Christmas
Have you heard of Loriot? The author, director, caricaturist and performer was able to caricature typical German traditions and mentalities like no other. He died in 2011 and out of his countless TV sketches 'Christmas with the Hoppenstedts' is a real gem. If you want to see what the handing out of Christmas presents could look like in Germany, then you should take a look at this hilarious sketch.
New Christmas gift trends
Many German families are now beginning to reflect upon whether they should take part in this excessive Christmas consumerism at all. There are some families in which at least the adults agree not to give each other anything, even though the children still receive Christmas presents. The arrangement can also be that only gifts you make yourself are allowed, for instance a hand-knitted scarf or home-made biscuits. Secret Santa is another really nice idea. Each member of the family pulls someone else's name out of a hat and can then take their time to work out what they would like to give the person.
Donations instead of Christmas presents
Another possible way to counter the consumerism of gift giving is to donate to a good cause. Many people in Germany now donate the money that they would have spent on Christmas presents. As a result, charities both large and small organise countless appeals for donations at Christmas time. However, you should obtain accurate information about the charitable institution before you transfer any money. Good guidance is provided by the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) and their Seal-of-Approval for donations. This lists all legitimate charities.
Did you get something you didn't want for Christmas?
If, even after all those painstaking deliberations and diligent present planning, you still receive a Christmas gift for which you have no use at all, you can exchange it. You can either do this in the shop where the gift was bought, or use one of the many swapping sites online. You are certain to find someone else on the website who would be pleased to have your unwanted gift and who perhaps has something that you would like in return. That would really wrap up your Christmas gift giving.
Activities within the online community
In the Alumniportal Deutschland community, people exchange views about Christmas traditions worldwide and other topics. What gift traditions are there where you live? Are these traditions also changing in your home country? Let us know whether your family exchanges Christmas gifts or not in community group 'Traditions & Festivals'!