15 Traditional Foods Germans Eat for Christmas

by Ella

Christmas in Germany is a festive season rich in traditions, and culinary delights play a significant role in the celebrations. German Christmas cuisine varies by region, but it is universally characterized by hearty dishes, sweet treats, and festive beverages. This article explores the traditional foods Germans enjoy during Christmas, from savory main courses to delectable desserts, along with the customs that make the holiday season special.

Historical Context of German Christmas Cuisine

Origins of German Christmas Traditions

German Christmas traditions have deep roots, influenced by Christian customs, pagan winter solstice celebrations, and regional agricultural practices. The emphasis on rich, comforting foods during the holiday season stems from historical needs to use preserved foods and provide nourishment during the cold winter months.


Influence of Regional Diversity

Germany’s diverse regions each have unique culinary traditions. From the hearty fare of Bavaria to the delicate pastries of Saxony, regional specialties reflect local ingredients and cultural influences. This diversity contributes to the rich tapestry of German Christmas cuisine.


Main Courses

1. Roast Goose (Weihnachtsgans)

A Festive Centerpiece


Roast goose is a quintessential German Christmas dish, particularly in northern and central Germany. Traditionally, it symbolizes prosperity and is often served as the main course on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.


Preparation and Serving

The goose is typically stuffed with a mixture of apples, onions, chestnuts, and herbs, then roasted until the skin is crispy and golden. It is served with red cabbage (Rotkohl) and potato dumplings (Kartoffelklöße) or bread dumplings (Semmelknödel).

2. Roast Duck

A Luxurious Alternative

In some regions, roast duck is preferred over goose. The preparation is similar, with the bird stuffed and roasted, providing a rich, flavorful centerpiece for the Christmas meal.


Roast duck is often accompanied by sides such as red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and potato dumplings, creating a balanced and festive meal.

3. Carp (Weihnachtskarpfen)

A Traditional Choice in Some Regions

Carp is a traditional Christmas dish in parts of Germany, particularly in Catholic regions where fish is favored on Christmas Eve. The practice of eating carp dates back to medieval fasting traditions.

Cooking Methods

Carp can be prepared in various ways, including baking, frying, or poaching. It is often served with boiled potatoes and a horseradish sauce.

Side Dishes

4. Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

A Classic Accompaniment

Red cabbage is a staple side dish during German Christmas meals. Its sweet and tangy flavor pairs well with rich meats like goose and duck.

Recipe and Ingredients

The cabbage is typically braised with apples, onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices such as cloves and bay leaves. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, creating a harmonious dish.

5. Sauerkraut

Fermented Goodness

In some regions, sauerkraut is served as a side dish during Christmas. This fermented cabbage dish provides a tangy contrast to the rich main courses.

Preparation Tips

To prepare sauerkraut for Christmas, it is often cooked with apples, onions, and a bit of white wine or beer, adding depth and complexity to the flavor.

6. Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelklöße)

Comfort Food at Its Best

Potato dumplings are a beloved side dish in Germany, particularly during festive occasions like Christmas. These soft, fluffy dumplings are the perfect accompaniment to roast meats and rich gravies.

Making Potato Dumplings

The dumplings are made from a mixture of cooked and raw potatoes, flour, and eggs. They are formed into balls and boiled until tender. Some recipes include croutons or bacon bits in the center for added flavor.

Breads and Starches

7. Stollen

A Sweet Holiday Tradition

Stollen is a rich, fruit-filled bread that is a staple of German Christmas celebrations. Originating from Dresden, this sweet bread is enjoyed throughout the Advent season and on Christmas Day.

Ingredients and Preparation

Stollen is made with a yeast dough enriched with butter, sugar, and a variety of dried fruits and nuts. It is often flavored with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. After baking, the bread is dusted with powdered sugar, giving it a festive appearance.

8. Lebkuchen

Traditional Gingerbread

Lebkuchen, a type of German gingerbread, is a favorite Christmas treat. These spiced cookies come in various shapes and sizes and are often decorated with icing or chocolate.

Varieties and Recipes

Lebkuchen can be soft and cake-like or crisp and crunchy. They are made with honey, spices, nuts, and candied fruit. Some regions, like Nuremberg, are famous for their specific Lebkuchen recipes, often guarded as family secrets.

9. Pfeffernüsse

Spiced Cookies

Pfeffernüsse are small, round spiced cookies that are a holiday favorite in Germany. Their name translates to “pepper nuts,” reflecting the traditional use of pepper and other spices in the dough.

Baking Pfeffernüsse

The cookies are made with a blend of spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. After baking, they are often rolled in powdered sugar, creating a delightful contrast between the spicy interior and the sweet exterior.


10. Christstollen

A Holiday Bread with a Rich History

Christstollen, or Stollen, is a festive fruit bread that has been a part of German Christmas traditions for centuries. This dense, sweet bread is typically filled with dried fruits, nuts, and marzipan, and dusted with powdered sugar.

Recipe and Variations

Traditional Stollen recipes include ingredients such as raisins, candied citrus peel, and almonds. Some variations feature a marzipan filling for added richness. The bread is baked well in advance of Christmas to allow the flavors to mature.

11. Marzipan

A Sweet Almond Treat

Marzipan, a confection made from almond paste and sugar, is a popular Christmas treat in Germany. It is often shaped into festive figures or used as a filling for cakes and pastries.

Making Marzipan

To make marzipan, finely ground almonds are mixed with powdered sugar and a small amount of rose water or almond extract. The mixture is kneaded until smooth and pliable, then shaped into various forms.

12. Weihnachtsplätzchen (Christmas Cookies)

A Variety of Festive Cookies

German Christmas cookies, or Weihnachtsplätzchen, come in many shapes and flavors. These cookies are often made in large batches and shared with family and friends.

Popular Varieties

  • Vanillekipferl: Crescent-shaped cookies flavored with vanilla and dusted with powdered sugar.
  • Spritzgebäck: Delicate, buttery cookies often shaped using a cookie press.
  • Zimtsterne: Cinnamon stars made from ground almonds and topped with a sugary glaze.


13. Glühwein

Mulled Wine

Glühwein is a popular hot beverage enjoyed during the Christmas season in Germany. This spiced wine is often served at Christmas markets and holiday gatherings.

Recipe and Ingredients
To make Glühwein, red wine is heated with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, along with sugar and citrus slices. The mixture is simmered gently, allowing the flavors to meld.

14. Feuerzangenbowle

A Fiery Punch

Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German punch that involves setting a rum-soaked sugar loaf on fire and allowing it to drip into a bowl of mulled wine.

Preparation and Serving

A special clamp, or “Feuerzange,” is used to hold the sugar loaf above the punch bowl. As the sugar melts and caramelizes, it adds a unique flavor to the wine. This dramatic preparation is often a centerpiece of holiday celebrations.

15. Eierlikör

German Eggnog

Eierlikör, or egg liqueur, is similar to eggnog and is enjoyed during the Christmas season. This creamy, rich beverage is often homemade and served as a dessert drink.

Ingredients and Recipe

Eierlikör is made with egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream, and rum or brandy. The mixture is gently heated and whisked until thick and smooth, then chilled before serving.

Regional Specialties

Bavarian Christmas Dishes

Hearty and Robust

In Bavaria, Christmas cuisine reflects the region’s love for hearty, robust flavors. Dishes like roast pork and sausages are common, often served with sauerkraut and potato dumplings.

Bavarian Sweets
Bavaria is also known for its rich desserts, such as the Prinzregententorte, a layered cake with chocolate buttercream.

Saxon Christmas Traditions

Delicate Pastries and Confections

Saxony, particularly the city of Dresden, is famous for its delicate pastries and confections. The Dresdner Stollen, a specific type of Stollen, is a protected designation of origin product, known for its high quality and traditional preparation.

Other Saxon Delights

Saxon Christmas markets offer a variety of sweets, including Pulsnitzer Pfefferkuchen (a type of gingerbread) and Quarkstollen, a moist and rich variation of the traditional fruit bread.

Christmas Market Foods


A Savory Market Favorite

Bratwurst, a type of German sausage, is a staple at Christmas markets. Grilled to perfection and served in a crusty roll, it is often enjoyed with mustard or sauerkraut.


Crispy Potato Pancakes

Reibekuchen, or potato pancakes, are another popular Christmas market food. These crispy, golden pancakes are typically served with applesauce or sour cream.

Roasted Chestnuts

A Warm and Nutty Treat

Roasted chestnuts are a classic winter treat found at German Christmas markets. The chestnuts are roasted over an open flame until tender and aromatic, providing a warm snack for market-goers.


Little Fried Doughnuts

Schmalzkuchen are small, deep-fried doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar. These sweet, bite-sized treats are a favorite among children and adults alike at Christmas markets.

Christmas Eve and Day Celebrations

Christmas Eve (Heiligabend)

A Night of Family and Tradition

Christmas Eve is a time for family gatherings and traditional meals. Many Germans attend church services, followed by a festive dinner at home.

Common Christmas Eve Dishes

Fish Dishes: In Catholic regions, fish is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.

Sausages and Potato Salad: A simpler, yet popular meal often enjoyed on this night.

Christmas Day (Weihnachtstag)

A Day for Feasting

Christmas Day is typically reserved for a grand feast. Families come together to enjoy an elaborate meal, often featuring roast meats and a variety of side dishes.

Desserts and Sweets

Christmas Day is also a time for enjoying the many cookies, cakes, and sweets prepared during the Advent season.

See Also: Christmas Breakfast: Origins, Dishes & Regional Variations


German Christmas cuisine is a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage and regional diversity. From the savory roasts and hearty sides to the sweet pastries and festive beverages, these foods play a central role in holiday celebrations. Whether you are preparing a traditional German Christmas meal or simply looking to explore new culinary traditions, the flavors and customs of German Christmas cuisine offer a delightful way to celebrate the season. By embracing these culinary traditions, you can bring a touch of German festivity to your holiday celebrations, creating memorable experiences for family and friends.



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