Ready for some endearing Christmas films from the homeland of the Christmas tree?
If the sound of Christmas carols, the sight of lit up trees and the splendor of decked out store facades never fail to get you in the mood for a movie about Christmas, you can now mix this holiday pleasure with your German language learning.
The allure of Christmas movies for the whole family is pretty universal. In any culture that celebrates the holiday, Christmas movies are popular. They are programmed on television around the holidays, screened in theaters and enjoyed by families all over the world.
Germany is certainly not the exception to the rule. Over the years, it has produced many popular films about Christmas, from the typical movies about Santa’s adventures to profound anti-war manifestos.
Christmas celebrations are central to family life in Germany. Christmas trees and gifts are a real treat for German children. Traditionally, parents decorate the tree in secret, so it will appear miraculously in front of children’s eyes.
Both Christmas trees and some of the most popular Christmas songs in the world are German creations. Germans love to decorate their houses with lights and electric candles, and their Christmas markets are extremely popular.
German Christmas films often depict the many traditional manifestations of the Christmas spirit. While many of them are light comedies for the whole family, others are more serious and dramatic, which is something that differentiates them from the bulk of American Christmas movies.
The Importance of Christmas Traditions in Germany
In Germany, Christmas is all about Gemütlichkeit (cosiness), Geborgenheit (snug security) and Innigkeit (inner warmth of the soul). The Christmas tree goes back to the Middle Ages, and the celebration of the winter solstice was actually very common in many primitive cultures.
It was, however in the nineteenth century that Christmas celebrations boomed all over the world for the first time. The German tradition of the tree was imported into Britain when Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree home from Germany, and the majority of the most traditional Christmas carols were composed around that time, including the famous Stille Nacht (Silent night).
Today, dinner and gift exchanges are a central part of German Christmas celebrations. In many Protestant families, children believe in Santa Claus whereas in Catholic families, it is said that the Christkind (Christ child) brings the presents. A traditional Christmas dinner may include carp, potato salad, and cucumber salad.
The Christmas celebrations begin four Sundays before Advent (the arrival of Christ). Across German speaking countries in Europe, families put up a wreath and light one candle on each Sunday leading up to Christmas eve.
While the original religious traditions were austere, today, Christmas has become merrier and lighter, and it involves eating advent calendars made of chocolate and many other traditional delights.
10 Heartwarming German Christmas Movies
1. “Alles ist Liebe” (Love Is All)
This is a popular German Christmas film from 2014. It is a romantic comedy that sets out to resolve the love troubles of several endearing characters before Christmas is over. The film can be considered Germany’s response to “Love Actually.”
2. “Das ewige Lied” (The Eternal Song)
This one tells the story of a priest who arrives at a divided village, takes the side of the underprivileged bargemen and finally goes on to create the famous song “Stille Nacht” to restore the town’s Christmas spirit. It is a beautiful myth about the creation of a Christmas icon.
3. “Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel” (Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella)
This is one of the most traditional Christmas films for children. It is basically a Christmas version of the classic Cinderella story, featuring a lovable heroine who wants nothing but to marry the prince of her dreams.
4. “Der kleine Nazi” (The Little Nazi)
This is an award-winning short film that presents a different perspective on Christmas.
When the Wölkel family heads to grandma’s to celebrate the holiday, they discover that she intends to revive the Nazi Christmas from the old days. Things get further complicated because the family is expecting an Israeli guest.
You can watch “Der kleine Nazi” on YouTube.
Thanks to an unofficial truce on the Western Front during the First World War, soldiers from different sides got to experience Christmas together.
This heartwarming anti-war tale is actually based on a true story. It is an ideal choice if you want a Christmas film with substance and a powerful message. You can watch the trailer for “Merry Christmas” here and stream the film on Amazon.
6. “Meine schöne Bescherung” (Messy Christmas)
This a hilarious comedy about a thirty-something woman who decides to invite all her exes, her partner’s exes and their new partners over for Christmas dinner.
As you might expect, there are all kinds of reasons for Christmas to get messy.
This is yet another Christmas story reminiscent of the classic Cinderella plot.
In this case, a single mom who works at a department store falls in love with her wealthy boss, and they have to overcome many obstacles before they can enjoy a happy ending—but will they ever reach their happily ever after?
The actors are quite charming, which infuses the old plotline with new life. If you love an old-fashioned romantic comedy with a modern twist, you will be very pleased with this film.
It is currently closing distribution deals worldwide, and it is available through Beta Film.
8. “Die Weihnachtsgans Auguste” (Auguste’s Christmas Goose)
This is based on the children’s story by the same name written by Friedrich Wolf.
When opera singer Ludwig Löwenhaupt buys a live goose to cook for Christmas, things don’t go exactly as planned. His son befriends the goose and Ludwig’s grand Christmas dinner plans are jeopardized. This is a perfect film for the whole family with touches of innocent humor and an uplifting message.
9. “Zwei Weihnachtsmänner” (Two Santas)
This is Germany’s response to the Hollywood film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” starring John Candy and Steve Martin.
In the German film, a rich man and a poorer man are trying to get home to Berlin for Christmas. Through a series of mishaps, they end up being stuck with each other for longer than they can stomach. The plane they are on takes a detour to another city due to snowfall and they are faced with the necessity of traveling together if they want to get to see their families on time for Christmas. If you loved the American film, you may love this one too.
10. “Das fliegende Klassenzimmer” (The Flying Classroom)
This is based on a novel by Erich Kästner. The book has been adapted to the screen more than once and the latest version (the one I’d recommend you watch) was made in 2003.
The film tells the story of an orphan who is adopted and starts at a new school a few days before Christmas. Rivalry between students from the school and another school causes much drama. The resolution involves performance of a play entitled “The Flying Classroom,” written by Jonathan, the orphan, who ends up finding his place in the world in his new home.
As Christmas approaches, many of us feel a yearning to relax and watch one of those Christmas films that make us feel like all is well in the world.
Now you can indulge while also practicing your German, thanks to these fabulous Christmas movies.
And One More Thing…
If you just can’t get enough of video-based German learning, you’ll definitely want to consider using FluentU for getting your German fix all year round.
FluentU takes great videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences so that you can learn real German as people really speak it.
A quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content you can find on FluentU:
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
And FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a complete platform for learning. It’s designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. This is a level of personalization that hasn’t been done before.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.