6 Festive German Christmas Stories with Interesting Historical Roots

“Frohe Weihnachten!” 

That’s how Germans say “Merry Christmas,” usually while dining on scrumptious traditional foods and roaming through illuminated street markets.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas yourself, learning about the German spin on the holiday is important if you’re learning the language since it’s so enthusiastically embraced in Deutschland.

By learning just those two little words, you’re able to connect with those you may meet on your travels, or simply send a friendly holiday greeting to your pen pal or German study partner. So, imagine if you learned even more holiday language!

Wishing someone a Merry Christmas isn’t the only thing you can do to immerse yourself in the German culture and show people that you’re thinking of them during the holiday season.

Since this is a German learning website, we’re always on the lookout for fun opportunities to expand your German language knowledge, from vocabulary to pronunciation.

Luckily, with the holidays come plenty of opportunities to go outside of your comfort zone.

6 Festive German Christmas Stories for a Heartwarming Holiday Learning Experience

Onto holiday story time!

“Weihnacht-Abend” (Christmas Eve)

Weihnacht-Abend (German Edition)

Our first German Christmas story was written by Ludwig Tieck. Some people confuse this title with the German version of “A Christmas Carol,” where an old Christmas Scrooge doesn’t want to have anything to do with Christmas, but then he’s visited by three ghosts. However, the Ludwig Tieck book actually has nothing to do with that popular tale.

In fact, it’s more of a recollection of the quintessential Christmas Eve for a German child. He reminisces about going to a popular fair in his hometown, where merchants sold chocolates, wooden figurines and other interesting Christmas items. He talks about how the entire fair was lit up by lanterns. It’s a beautiful look into a Christmas Eve in Germany, as it explores a situation where a kid could run around and enjoy the cold air with family and friends.

Check out the “Weihnacht-Abend” story to learn lots of expressions you might hear during the Christmas season in German. As with most of the stories in this selection, you can’t expect a glossary or translation dictionary, but the language stands at an intermediate to advanced level. It covers lots of seasonal words such as die Nascherei (sweets) and kaufleute (merchants), and the context should help you figure out most unknown words.

“Der Weihnachtspullover” (The Christmas Sweater)

Der Weihnachtspullover (German Edition)Authored by Silke Zacharias, here’s a wonderful Christmas tale meant for kids. It has plenty of illustrations detailing the story about how Grandma gets sick and cancels Christmas. It’s not until Yann comes up with an idea to help her knit a Christmas sweater that they’re able to bring back the cheer to their home.

We really enjoy this book for language learners, since it includes dozens of illustrations that correlate with the story. This assists in understanding what a word may mean if you don’t exactly know what it is. Also, “Der Weihnachtspullover” has several spin-offs and sequels in case you’d like to continue reading on the same learning level.

To give you an idea of the type of grammar level you can expect, the book starts with a few lines like “Yann sitzt im Wohnzimmer am Tisch” (Yann is sitting in the living room at the table). As you can see, this is rather basic. The majority of the book is for beginners and kids, so nothing should be too tricky to understand.

“Die kleine Schneefee” (The Small Snow Woman/Snow Fairy)

Die kleine Schneefee (German Edition)

Kerstin Werner presents a children’s story about how a young girl longs for a white Christmas. The first vocab lesson you’ll encounter is right in the title, since Schneefee doesn’t exactly have a direct English translation, but it’s known to mean either “snow woman” or “snow fairy.”

“Die kleine Schneefee” serves as a great story for both kids and adults, so if you have a chance to read it to kids who are also trying to learn German (or who know German already), go for it! Overall, the story gets you pumped about going out in the snow, building snowmen and making snowballs. If you have a desire to watch snow dropping to the ground, we recommend you check out this cute German Christmas story.

Although it’s a simple story, some of the vocabulary words and phrases may extend to a more intermediate level. For example, you’ll run into somewhat more complex sentences like, “Beim Frühstück hatte sich ihre Laune noch nicht gebessert” (At breakfast, their mood had not improved.)

“Geschichten zum Advent” (Stories for Advent)

Geschichten zum Advent (German Edition)

This is a compilation of four cheerful stories for the Advent season, written by Josef Seidl.

The “Geschichten zum Advent” book adds a religious element to the holiday season, which is perfect for those who would like to not only appreciate Christmas Day, but the entire Advent season.

To give you a taste of this book, one of the stories explains how a man is stopped by the police around the holidays and how he plans on getting out of trouble. Another is about how a master carpenter becomes ill, causing concern for his family regarding who’s going to bring in money and care for them. Thankfully, Jacob (who you’ll get to meet properly in the book) steps up to the plate, but he’s a bit clumsy so he encounters quite a few obstacles.

What’s interesting about this book is that it touches on many German names, which is nice for diving into the culture of Germany. In addition, numbers and dates are extensively covered, and the stories are short enough for you to quickly translate and practice without having to rack your brain or follow the complexities of a huge novel.

“Weihnacht” (Christmas)

Weihnacht (German Edition)

Karl May published the “Weihnacht” story in 1897, and it’s become a Christmas classic in Germany. The story is about a traveler who goes through both Germany and the Wild West of America. The title refers to a Christmas poem that consistently comes up throughout the story.

We recommend this story for those who enjoy traveling, since May serves as the narrator and he details a Christmas season hiking trip through Imperial Germany that he went on with a friend.

This is a longer story, and we would suggest that you not take it on unless you’re comfortable at the intermediate level (or unless you’re looking for a challenge). What’s cool is that you’ll learn festive, and often religious, phrases such as Euer Heiland Jesus Christ (Your savior Jesus Christ.)

“Die Elfen und der Schuster” (The Elves and the Shoemaker)

Die Elfen und der Schuster: The shoemaker and the elves- in German (German Edition)Written by the Grimm Brothers, this classic German Christmas story has been adapted and remade several times over.

The story has many renditions, all of which follow a shoemaker and his wife who need to find money to pay rent. The different story renditions change how long it takes them to gain that money. If you’re interested in learning the story in English before reading through the book, we recommend watching the “Holiday for Shoestrings” Looney Tunes episode to understand the story. Then you can go back and know the story to put more of your focus on vocabulary and grammar.

How to Add German Christmas Stories to Your Study Routine

German Christmas traditions vary quite a bit from those all over the world, so it’s wise to read up on some of those traditions to decorate your house or make your own cultural traditions at home.

German Christmas stories allow you to engage in a festive reading environment while also touching on stories that German folks grew up with and read to their own kids.

That’s what Christmas is all about—connecting with your loved ones and enjoying the traditions you grew up with.

Even better, you receive a chance to develop new habits and traditions. So why not bring your German learning into the mix? Germans enjoy Christmas quite a bit. Therefore, bring these stories into your own Christmastime routine to connect with your loved ones and a completely different culture at the same time.

Why German Christmas Stories Are Awesome for Building Your German Fluency

  • They allow for one person to tell a story while others listen. As an example, you might consider ordering a colorful, illustrated copy of the “Weichnacht-Abend” (Christmas Evening) story to read to people in your family or friend group who are also trying to learn German. Many other learners use Skype or go to Meetups to practice German, so track down some interested people there. Why not suggest holding a story time where one person reads and the others listen and chime in whenever a question arises?
  • Many of the stories have strange, funny or interesting roots, which helps you learn about German culture. A good story with interesting roots is “Die Elfen und der Schuster” (The Elves and the Shoemaker), where the story has three variations due to changes since it was written in 1806. One version is about the freeing of elves after making shoes and clothing, while the other is a tale of a poor shoemaker who still manages to help the needy after making shoes with the help of some elves.
  • Some of the stories bring in characters and settings from books and German folklore so you can see the stories that real Germans learn when they are younger. As an example, the “Weihnacht” (Christmas) story brings readers through the German landscape so you can learn about some of the towns and Christmas traditions in those towns.

The Germans love their Christmas stories, so these are wonderful ways to indulge in the spirit of German Christmas and enjoy what it’s truly like to be somewhere like Munich or Berlin for the holidays. You may not have the chance to see the snow falling in Germany, but losing yourself in a good story is the closest thing you can find.

Merry Christmas!

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