Celebrating Christmas in Neuss and across Germany is only slightly different than in other countries. The 24 December is the most important date, followed by December 25 and 26, which are official holidays in Germany.
The evening of December 24 is the major day of celebration and togetherness, traditionally reserved for sometimes rather solemn family gatherings. Eating together and exchanging gifts next to the Christmas tree are the highlights of the Christmas festivities, but activities such as reciting poems or singing songs are also widespread.
Parties tend not to take place during this day but December 25 and 26 are used to enjoy a good time with further family and friends. Going to church or practising religious rituals is not so common nowadays due to modern attitudes and the steady increase of secularization in German society. Regional traditions are only preserved in rural communities. Mass media and commerce have a deep impact on Christmas celebrations in the cities, similar to all urban areas of the western influenced world.
Many rituals mark the Christmastime period. For example Advent wreaths with four candles (Adventskranz), which are lit one by one on each of the four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Christmas cake (Stollen) and gingerbread houses are also baked for days on end among families. Presents are generally distributed on December 24.
And after Santa Claus has been busy circling the globe, the Finns believe most firmly that Santa lives way up there in snowy Lapland in his Korvatunturi. So too do their postal service that delivers tons of letters penned in all manner of languages to Claus. Many North Americans beg to disagree. That rather rotund and cheerful, white bearded gent in the bright red robe is the official Mr Christmas and from the US.
Germans present the terrific tradition of Christmas markets across the country for a whole month during the time before Christmas.