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German-English Glossary
Christmas • Weihnachten

German Vocabulary > German-English Christmas Glossary


Christmas | Weihnachten | Winter | Holidays | Santa

An Annotated German-English Glossary of Christmas Terms
In this annotated glossary, you’ll find vocabulary and facts related to the Christmas celebration and Christmas customs in German-speaking Europe and in North America.

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Also see:
  Advent Calendar with Christmas facts (in season)
  Christmas in Germany - Weihnachten (German Way)
  English-German New Year's Glossary (Silvester)
  English-German Thanksgiving Glossary
  Thanksgiving in Germany - Erntedank (German Way)

adj. (adjective), adv. (adverb), , f. (feminine), lit. (literary), m. (masculine), n. (noun), pl. (plural), sl. (slang), v. (verb)

Glossary Copyright © 1999-2014 Hyde Flippo

A-K (Part 1) | L-Z (Part 2)


Advent, der Advent
Adventskalender, der (-) Advent calendar
  See our online Advent calendar with Christmas facts!

Advent calendar An Advent Calendar

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! (in season)

Adventskranz, der Advent wreath
Adventszeit, die Advent season


Barbarazweig, der "Barbara branch/twig" - A pre-Christmas custom celebrated in Catholic regions on Dec. 4th.

Barbarazweig is a winter custom usually involving cherry tree twigs. It is celebrated in Catholic regions on Dec. 4th, the traditional feast day of St. Barbara (Barbaratag). For more, see: Barbara: The Name, the Legend from The German Way.

Basler Brunsli (pl.) Basel chocolate balls - A sweet confection made with chocolate, almonds, and hazelnut; a Swiss Christmas treat.
Baumkuchen, der Baumkuchen ("tree cake") is a layered cake whose interior resembles Christmas tree rings when cut.
die Beleuchtung, die lighting
  die Außenbeleuchtung outdoor lighting
Bescherung, die gift giving, exchange of presents

Bescherung - Two common German idioms are based on this word: (1) "Da haben wir die Bescherung." = "I told you so!"/"What did I tell you!" (2) "Das ist ja eine schöne Bescherung!" = "This is a fine mess!"

Bibel, die Bible
Bonbon, das/der (-s) candy, sweets


Chor, der choir, chorus
Christbaum, der Christmas tree

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.

Christkindl, das the Christkindl ("Christ child"), an angel-like figure with golden hair who brings gifts

The term "Kris Kringle" (for Santa) 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."

Christkindlesmarkt, der (-märkte) Christmas market
Christmette, die/die Mitternachtsmette, die midnight mass
Christstollen, der (-) Christmas bread/cake, fruit cake (a Dresden specialty)
C+M+B traditional blessing inscription over the entrance door of houses in German-speaking Europe representing the name of the Wise Men or Magi (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar), usually with the year: "20+C+M+B+14" (sometimes "K+M+B" for Kaspar)


dekorieren to decorate
Dreikönigsfest, das Feast of the Three Kings (Wise Men, Jan. 6), Epiphany
Dreikönigstag, der Epiphany (Jan. 6), Feast of the Three Kings (Wise Men)

January 6, the end of the "12 days of Christmas" and the traditional date of the arrival of the Magi, or Wise Men ("Three Kings" - "Drei Könige") at the manger, is also the date for Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox Church and an important Christmas observance in Spain and Latin America (Los Reyes Magos). - Also see "C+M+B" and "Sternsinger." MORE: Epiphany and the Sternsinger (The German Way)

Dresdner Weihnachtsstollen Dresden Christmas [fruit] bread/loaf

Also see: English-German New Year's Glossary


Eierlikör, der eggnog (Eierlikör is similar to, but not the same as eggnog)
Eis, das ice
Eis-Lametta, das icicle (tinsel)
Eislaufen, das ice skating
Eiszapfen, der (-) icicle(s)
Engel, der (-) angel
erklingen/klingeln to ring (bells)


Flitter, der/Lametta, das tinsel
Freut euch! Freue dich! Rejoice!
Friede auf Erden! Peace on Earth!
Fröhliche Weihnachten!, Frohe Weihnachten! Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas!


Gebäck, das baked goods, pastry
Geburt Christi, die birth of Christ, the nativity
Geschenk, das (-e) gift, present

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."

Girlande, die (-n) garland
Glaskugel, die (-n) glass ball (ornament)
Glocke, die bell
Glöckchen, das little bell
Glühwein, der ("glow wine") hot mulled, spiced wine
  Also see vorglühen in Part 2

Gurke, die cucumber
  saure Gurke pickle
  See The German Christmas Pickle Ornament - tradition or myth? (The German Way)


Heiland, der/Retter, der (the) Savior
Heiligabend, der Christmas Eve
Heiligen Drei Könige, die/Weisen, die The (Three) Wise Men, Three Kings, Magi
heilig (adj.) holy
Hirt, der (-en) shepherd


Jesus, der (YEA-zoos) Jesus
Jesulein, das Baby Jesus


Kamin, der fireplace
Karpfen, der (-) carp

Carp is a traditional Christmas or New Year's delicacy in many parts of Germany.

Kekse, Kipferln, Plätzchen (pl.) cookies
Kerze, die (-n) candle(s)
  elektrische Kerzen electric candles, Christmas lights

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.

Kipferl, das (-n) Kipferl - An Austrian Christmas cookie. See: vanilla crescents Vanillekipferln
Kletzenbrot, das fruit bread, Christmas bread (an Alpine rye bread containing dried pears, Kletzen, and various spices)
klingeln/erklingen to ring (bells)
König, der (-e) king(s)
  Heiligen Drei Könige, die/Weisen, die The Three Kings (The Wise Men)
Krampus, der Krampus - See "Ruprecht" below.
Kranz, der wreath
Krippe, die the manger, créche, nativity
Krippenbild, das the nativity (scene) - usually with carved wooden or ceramic figures
Kripplein, das the manger, créche, nativity

NEXT > L-Z (Part 2)

A-K (Part 1) | L-Z (Part 2)

MORE > Advent Calendar with Christmas facts
MORE > German Christmas Carols
MORE > Christmas in Germany - Weihnachten (German Way)
MORE > English-German New Year's Glossary

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Glossary Copyright © 1999-2014 Hyde Flippo