German Christmas Traditions – Advent and Gluhwein

Today we write about the  German Christmas Traditions – The Advent Wreath. There are many German Christmas traditions. One of them is the Adventskranz or Advent wreath. Made out of fir and/or pine branches and decorated with 4 candles it is symbolizing the 4 weeks before Christmas. Every Sunday a candle is been lit before the Christmas tree lights are illuminating the room. In Germany you don’t light the Christmas tree before Christmas.

German Christmas Traditions – Advent and Gluhwein

German Christmas Traditions - The Advent Wreath


In 1839 the Protestant Theologist Johann Hinrich Wichern started the tradition and within 100 years the wreath was also found in catholic regions.
Following the legend Johann Wichern helped the poor children in Hamburg, and moved with them into an old farm house called “Rauhes Haus”, and took care of them. Because the children were always asking when is Christmas, he built a wreath in using an old wheel where 20 white and 4 red candles where placed. Every day of the 24 days one candle was lit so the children would be able to count the days.
This special advent wreath hangs in the Saint Michaelis Church in Hamburg and in the Rauhes Haus. The traditional advent wreath developed into the wreath with 4 candles and from about 1860 the wreath is made out of pine branches. 1925 the wreath was used the first time in a catholic church.

It is been said that the Advent wreath was existing before Johannes Wichern started it. This theses is based on a poem of Hermann Claudius named “Lied im Advent” (song in the Advent) who lived from 1878 to 1980.

A traditional beverage of the German Adventszeit is mulled wine or “Gluehwein” in German.

german christmas traditions advent and gluhwein

Here is a recipe to make the Glühwein fast

Ingredients Gluhwein

2 liter red wine
3/4 l brown rum, 40% –  optional
sugar as needed
1-2 oranges, organic, blood oranges are good too
1-2 lemons, organic
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
5 cloves and 1 star anise

german christmas box
German Christmas Box from

Cooking Instructions Gluhwein

– Heat the wine in a big pot but don’t bring it to a boil; heat it on low temperature.
– Remove seeds from lemons and oranges.
– Cut the orange and lemon with the peel in slices or quarters, add them to the wine with the cloves. Keep it on low temperature and let it simmer.
– Cut vanilla bean open and add the seeds to the wine.
– Add 2/3 of the rum – the rum adds a  nice taste to the wine but also makes it stronger, so you can add just a little bit or don’t add it at all.
– Let it simmer until the oranges and lemons are getting very soft- for about 1-1.5 hours; take out a piece of lemon and check if you can take it off the peel. The wine should color it red until to the peel.
– Stir frequently.
– Wash some bottles with hot water.
– Take out the fruit and cloves or pour it through a strainer.
– Press remaining juice out of the fruit and add it to the wine. If you like your can puree the fruit without the peel and add it to the wine as well, that makes it thicker.
– Heat it again and add remaining rum and sugar – don’t bring it to a boil!
– Fill it hot in bottles and close it right away, or keep it warm for your guests.

The wine can be kept for several months  in bottles.

Find another Gluehwein recipe here


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