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A German Christmas dinner: what do Germans eat during the festive season?

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Festive traditions across the world revolve around the food which is served. In Germany, a wide range of food is eaten and Christmas dinners vary from region to region, but there are a handful of more traditional choices.

The meal on Heiliger Abend (Christmas Eve), to many people in Germany, is just as important as the one served on Christmas Day itself. Traditionally, people eat fish with Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and Sauerkraut. The origins of this come from when the Church told people to undertake a pre-Christmas fast, meaning meat was not allowed. Of course, nowadays not all families respect this tradition and many do indeed eat meat or simply just Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) on Heiliger Abend.

A plate of Karoffelpuffer. Photo: "Kleine Kartoffelpuffer aus 750g Kartoffelpufferteig"by multipel_bleiben is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

On Christmas morning, people traditionally eat charcuterie and various types of cheese. The chosen meats and cheeses usually depend on the region’s specialities, meaning there is a wide range of different boards across Germany. In some parts of the country, breakfast may also include more substantial dishes such as fish, boiled eggs, and various cuts of meat.

A meat and cheese platter. Photo: Pixabay via Bing

When it comes to lunch, poultry is usually the centrepiece. The bird of choice is likely to be Weinachtsgans (roast goose), duck or turkey. Along with the roast, most people also eat things such as braised red cabbage, Serviettenknödel (a dumpling of sorts), and Spätzle (a type of pasta). Typically, the lunch would not be complete without a generous quantity of wine!

Weihnachtsgans. Photo: Jürgen Howaldt via Wikimedia Commons

The dessert that follows is also very important given its history. That is to say, many households will serve Lebkuchen, which is a honey-sweetened cookie or cake, similar in many ways to gingerbread. The most famous type is Nürnberger Lebkuchen, but the first record of the cake comes from Ulm in 1296.

A selection of Lebkuchen. Photo: Lebkuchen by Caro Wallis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Click here to read about Glühwein, another German Christmas speciality.


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