The favorite daytime meal on the day before Christmas consisted of Bockwurst und Kartoffelsalat (sausage and potato salad). This custom allowed the homemakers more time to concentrate on the preparation of the evening's more elaborate meal and the Bescherung (present giving).
At dusk on Christmas Eve, friends would gather and treated with Feuerzangebowle, a Pomeranian type of sweetened, spiced, and heated wine. When the guests were seated, they were served appetizers of Kock Kase mit Schwartzbrot (cooked cheese spread with dark bread), Heringe Nach Hausfrauenart"(pickled creamed herring) and Rugenwald tea sausage. The hospitality rules were more relaxed than at other times. Christmas was a time when family and very close friends celebrated together and most non-family activities were suspended for the week.
Dinner was by candlelight and began with Kirschsuppe (warm cherry soup with dumplings). The main course was Pommerscher Gansebraten (roast goose with stuffing) served with gravy, Rotkohl mit Apfeln (red cabbage with apples), and Knoedel (potato dumplings). Many families also included Blue Carp, poached in vinegar and served with horseradish and sweet whipped cream, boiled salt potatoes garnished with parsley and butter. Dessert was Schokolade Pudin (steamed chocolate pudding with hard sauce) and Klotternusse Keks cookies. Other delicacies of the season served as in-between snacks, included Christstollen (long loaves of bread filled with nuts, dried fruit, citron, and raisins), Lebkuchen (spice bars), Reisbrei (a rice pudding flavored with sweet cinnamon), and white sausage.
The goose was stuffed with vegetables rather than the bread stuffing of Americans. To prepare a Feuerzangenbowle, you need red wine, rum, oranges juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves. All lights in the room should be dimmed to provide the appropriate atmosphere. The rum-soaked sugar is lit and as the flames leap up, the sugar drips into the spiced wine.
Those who do not eat well on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons during the night, therefore Dickbauch (fat stomach) is a name given for this opportunity to eat so well and so much.
The Christmas tree, according to tradition, originated in Germany. It is believed that Martin Luther began the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home. One Christmas Eve he brought in an evergreen tree to his daughter's nursery for her to enjoy since the weather was too bad for her to go outside. He decorated the tree with candles.
The tree has a mysterious magic for the children because they are not allowed to see it until Christmas Eve. Usually the children were occupied with the Christmas Eve church service and when they arrived home the Christmas Tree appeared, usually in the parlor, that special room that was only used for special occasions. The tree was decorated with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, tinsel, family treasures and candles. The presents were placed under the tree. As the children entered this fantastic room, carols were sung, the candles lit, the Christmas story read and the gifts were opened. The Christmas tree lights and candles were essential to the Pomeranians' Christmas celebration.
According to legend, on Christmas Eve in Germany rivers turned to wine, animals spoke to each other, tree blossoms produced fruit, mountains opened up to reveal precious gems, and church bells could be heard ringing from the bottom of the sea. Of course, only the pure in heart could witness this Christmas magic. All others must content themselves with traditional German celebrating, of which there was plenty. As a matter of fact, there was so much celebrating that it had to begin on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day.
As in many other European countries, on the eve of December 6th, children placed a shoe or boot by the fireplace. During the night, St. Nicholas, hopped from house to house carrying a book of sins in which all of the misdeeds of the children were written. If they have been good, he filled the shoe or boot with delicious holiday edibles. If they have not been good, their shoe was filled with twigs.