A bright red BMW I8 sports car is the latest German innovation to fill some lucky Christmas stocking. For only $135,000 this Beemer leaps to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, but ‘scrooges’ fuel at 94 miles per gallon. Technology and creativity are at the heart of Deutschland’s culture. Millions enjoy the German Christmas innovation over the centuries.
German Christmas Innovation – Twelve Days
“On the first second day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .”
Pre-Christian Germanic tribes followed a lunar calendar. By mid-December twelve lunar months consumed 354 days with almost two weeks to spare before the New Year. Rauänchte, or rough nights, evolved into a twelve-day celebration centered on Winter Solstice, the year’s shortest day. Garland draped the trees and sacrifices were made in hopes of a short winter. Early Christians commandeered Rauänchte, replacing it with the Twelve Days of Christmas. “. . . two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.”
German Christmas Innovation – Santa’s Helpers
The Christmas centerpiece of Southern Germany is December 6, St. Nikolas Day. Outside each doorway is Nikolaus-Steifel, or boots. Saint Nick fills the good children’s boots with sweets and goodies. He turns to a bearded and shabby helper, Knecht Ruprecht, to fills the bad children’s boots with coal and sticks from his dirty sack. Ruprecht translates to ‘devil.’ Earlier legends told how this evil elf kidnapped bad children and
carried them into dark woods, never to be seen again. Krampus is a horned creature that helps St. Nikolas near the Austrian border. Over time these evil helpers transformed into the happy elves that help Santa, build toys, and bake Keebler© cookies. Like their ancestors, Santa’s helpers still keep track as to who is naughty or nice.
German Christmas Innovation – O Christmas Tree
Decorated trees go all the way back to the pagan Rauänchte festivals, but who decided to light-up a Christmas tree? Legend describes how the founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, was walking home one night, burdened by religious debates and violence. Twinkling stars pierced through the evergreens. The beautiful image enchanted the former priest, who promptly placed candles on a Christmas tree at home. Whether it was Luther, or some other German, illuminated Christmas trees began in Deutschland and spread across Europe. As Germans immigrated to America in the mid-19th century, trees and candles came with them. Stars still crown our Christmas trees, but we no longer burn our houses down lighting them with candles.
German Christmas Innovation – Deck the Halls
Glass blowers from the German Thuringia State were first to paint decorations on Christmas bulbs. Those same artisans pioneered the use of electricity to illuminate the bulbs. German bakers created Lebkuchen, decorated gingerbread houses, to resemble the witch's lair in Hansel & Gretel, but it evolved into a Christmas centerpiece. Ore Mountain wood artists carved and painted knights, soldiers, and other figures with big white teeth to ward off demons at night. German storyteller Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffman, inspired by these figurines, wrote the Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816. Ore Mountain artisans also created Christmas Pyramids, intricate wooden towers with propellers spun by candles.
Understanding culture is critical to succeed in international business. At Nazareth College students not only gain the skills behind imports and exports, but they explore cultural foundations in religion, history, and philosophy. Our Berlin study abroad option is popular with the opportunity to intern at a Deutsch company. Nazareth College international business graduates breathe cultural empathy as they negotiate around the world. With all that potential, perhaps a BMW I8, or some other German innovation, awaits them under the Christmas tree.