Want to host a holiday feast with a German spin? Here are some of the most popular recipes to serve for a German-inspired Christmas meal.
Germany is full of holiday traditions that make December a truly magical time of year. It’s the birthplace of the advent calendar, the advent wreath, Christmas trees and German Christmas markets.
There are also German Christmas traditions that haven’t made it to the United States yet, like St. Nicholas Day. On December 5 children set out a pair of nicely polished shoes, hoping St. Nicholas will visit and leave a small surprise in their shoes as he judges them naughty or nice. Children wake up eagerly on December 6 to see!
Saint Nicholas is often joined by a helper, Belschnickel, who brings coal for the naughty children. Some families also recognize Krampus, a horned beast who scares children into behaving for the new year.
But the best part of any tradition, in my opinion, is the food. A Christmas meal in Germany is truly something special, and families gather for special meals on December 24th, 25th and 26th.
It may begin with an appetizer like sausages, then go into a main course of roast goose, pork, baked fish (or possibly even all three) alongside potato dumplings and slow simmered cabbage.
There are so many recipes that make a traditional German Christmas special. If you’re looking for something new to add to your own celebration this holiday season, here are a few suggestions!
On Christmas Eve families typically attend a church service like midnight mass, and then go back home to eat a simple meal, decorate the Christmas tree with fairy lights, and exchange gifts. More musical families may sing Christmas carols or play Christmas music together.
Christmas Eve is the last night of a religious fasting period that begins November 11th and so traditionally it has been kept fairly simple and with no meat, only fish.
Carp is the most popular option for Christmas Eve dinner. It has always been considered an appropriate meal to be served during a fasting period. Even for those who are not religious, carp is a popular choice because it is widely available in the region and considered to be affordable for feeding a large family.
The second dish that is always served for Christmas Eve in German homes is potato salad. Potato salad may seem a bit more odd to Americans. German potato salad is not made with a thick covering of mayonnaise but it does have the tangy flavor of vinegar and onions alongside creamy, butter potatoes.
Families who have broken away from the religious tradition of not eating pork or beef during this period add sausage to the potato salad.
It’s no surprise that a traditional German Christmas would include sausages. Germany is known for its delicious sausages and the bratwurst is probably the most famous of all. The recipe for authentic German bratwurst goes back centuries to the middle ages and families make them at home.
December 25th is when families typically feast together now that the fasting period has officially ended. This meal, of course, varies from one family to the next, but the most traditional menu items include the following.
Stuffed Goose (Weihnachtsgans)
The main course may be roast duck or roast pork, but perhaps the most popular is stuffed Christmas goose. The goose is cooked just like a Turkey in America and stuffed with apple sausage stuffing.
This tradition may have come from the English, particularly Queen Elizabeth II, but it is one that has endured for many years. Goose is a special delicacy for Christmas dinner. It contains plenty of fat that makes the meat juicy and the skin crispy.
Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelklöße)
Kartoffelklöße are cute, round balls of potato and starch topped with gravy or mushroom sauce and sometimes croutons. This simple recipe is traditional German comfort food.
Potatoes may be combined raw, cooked, or a combination of both along with flour or starch. These special German dumplings are lightly seasoned, heavy but not mushy. They are the perfect side dish for the roast goose.
Some families may serve Kartoffelpuffer instead. Kartoffelpuffer is a potato pancake that is usually fried, crispy and golden. No holiday meal is complete without a side of potatoes!
Apple Sausage Stuffing
Of course sausages must be served on Christmas as well! Most families add sausage to their stuffing that is cooked inside the goose.
There are not many sides served alongside the roasted goose, but cabbage is a must-have. Rotkohl is made of red cabbage that is slowly caramelized with apples, spices and butter. The result is a dish that is slightly sweet and sour and melts in your mouth. It is the perfect accompaniment for a nice roast or goose.
The most popular dessert for German families on Christmas day is the Christmas Stollen. This dry cake is shaped into a loaf, meant to represent the baby Jesus, and filled with marzipan, raisins and other bits of fruit.
It’s not a heavy loaf like many American or Canadian fruit cakes as yeast makes it rise to be lighter. The outside is coated lightly in powdered sugar.
Ginger Cookies (Lebkuchen)
Ginger cookies are another tradition for Christmas celebrations, but they are not sweet and made with molasses like American gingerbread. Lebkuchen is made with ginger and sweetened only a little bit with honey. These Christmas cookies may be found on store shelves in early December or even earlier.
No matter how you plan to celebrate this holiday season it’s always a good idea to add a little Culture to your Kitchen. I hope you enjoy trying out a few of these classic German Christmas dishes. Merry Christmas!
Although many German potato salads are made with bacon, the potato salad shown above is made with salami.