German Christmas traditions found in We Three Kings

Cara wanted to connect her story to her WWII novels, so it only made sense that the family line would be of German heritage. Not only did that give us some fun historical scenarios to work with, but it also gave us a rich and deep well of Christmas traditions to incorporate into our stories. I love learning about other cultures, and who doesn’t love the added benefit of delving into their Christmas traditions? Sigh. One day, I hope to get to experience some of these traditions first hand IN Germany and not just our version here in the States, or via online pictures.

Each of the below traditions can be found in some form in our novellas.



All over the world, December 6 is known as St. Nikolaus Day and is a celebration of Saint Nikolaus, the Bishop of Myra and the patron saint of seafarers and children. Children leave shoes outside their door in order for Saint Nikolaus to deposit a sweet treat for their year of good behavior. However, in Germany, Saint Nikolaus is accompanied by a more sinister figure who carries a sack and switch. Children who were bad could be given a switch or taken away in the sack. This assistant has various names based on the region, the two most familiar being Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht. I chose to use Knecht Ruprecht, as he first appeared in a seventeenth-century Nuremberg Christmas procession, and Krampus appears to be used more often in the Alpine Region.

Weihnachtsmarkt—German Christmas Markets

These open-air markets are a German Christmas tradition that signal the beginning of the Advent season and date back to the Middle Ages. Traditionally, the stalls are made from timber, and everything sold must be locally produced and handmade. Twinkling lights, music, and the scent of traditional German foods mixed with the scent of a hot mulled wine called Glühwein set the atmosphere for this unique experience. If you ever get the chance to go, be sure to check out the hand-carved ornaments, Advent calendar wreaths, and my favorite, Quetschemännchen—the little figurines made from dried fruit and walnuts.


January 6 is the religious feast day known as Epiphany or das Dreikönigsfest (“three kings festival”) in Germany and some other locations. Epiphany commemorates the journey of the wise men who traveled to seek the Christ child. Often, the letters CMB can be found written in chalk on the doors to welcome and commemorate these men. According to, “Traditionally, the three letters in the inscription stand for the names of the three Wise Men (Magi): Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar (German spelling). Another possible explanation is that “C+M+B” stands for the Latin phrase: Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates into “Christ bless this house.” The inscription is usually made with chalk that has been blessed by a local Catholic priest.” While there are variations in how it is done, in Cara’s story, three men travel from door to door, offering blessings to those at home. Often, the children would also dress up, and sometimes, a leader of the procession would carry a star. Small gifts are given to the children, just as the wise men gave their gifts to the Christ child.


Martinstag, or St. Martin’s Day, is celebrated on November 11 with a lantern parade. Tradition says St. Martin was a soldier who had given away his last cent when he spied a man shivering in the cold. Out of compassion he took off his cloak and cut it in half with his sword to share. The whole town heard of his generosity and wanted to praise him. Embarrassed by the attention, St. Martin hid in a goose house, so the townsfolk had to use lanterns to search for him. Today, that search for him is mimicked through a lantern parade complete with song and, depending on where you are, candy.

Make Your Own German Paper Star

There is a reason why Celestia struggled to make her star . . . There are a LOT of steps. Depending on whether you are a video tutorial person or a printed instructions person, I’ve given you the link to two great options below:

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