While the term souvenir originally comes from the French term for memory, its meaning has since expanded in reference to the small but meaningful keepsakes and mementos we bring home to substantiate our wanderlust. These gifts are sure to capture the spirit of the season in Germany.
Germans may just be the source of the widely popular custom of baking Christmas cookies, which has disseminated throughout many Western industrialized societies. In fact, many traditional German Christmas cookies are highly recognizable in this context. Lebkuchen, the massive heart-shaped gingerbread cookies, are one of the most iconic varieties of all. For the traveler that has just made it back from a trip to Germany during the month of December, no doubt part of the itinerary involved perusing a Christmas Market or two. Transport your loved one back to this festive atmosphere by bestowing them with an intricately iced Lebkuchen, hand-selected from the many hanging in the stands.
No doubt, Germans love their pickles. This is the case so much so that Spreewalde Pickles are actually protected under the EU as a special commodity, beloved enough to survive the fall of the Wall. Pickles have even nestled themselves into the repertoire of traditional German décor. Specifically, the gurke was hung from a string on the Christmas tree in some regions of Germany as the final piece of decoration; the child to find it first would receive an additional gift. Now, the tradition is commemorated with Christmas ornaments in the shape of pickles. This souvenir will invite stories that bring back memories for years to come.
Germany is traditionally a fairly religious country. Many regions are still inhabited with staunch Catholics, while plenty of secularized portions of the country have also maintained Christian influences. For example, Advent Calendars are typical fixtures in German households, for both the religious and the nonreligious. The ornate, brightly colored cardboard calendars are filled with chocolates or other small trinkets, which mark each passing day in anticipation of Christmas. Partake in this fun tradition by snagging one and bringing it back home four weeks before the holiday arrives. While they are usually quite cheap — and the chocolate is admittedly also — it is possible to find swankier options like the ones made by Godiva.
The German Christmas pyramid is an intricate multi-tiered wooden decoration that many believe was the precursor to the Christmas tree. The origins of the Christmas Pyramid can be traced back to the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains in English. Each section of the pyramid details different scenes and motifs from Christmas tradition, including angels, evergreen trees, and the holy family, revealing a tiny world of wonder for those who behold it. They come in many shapes and sizes, but it isn’t difficult to find one that can fit in your suitcase.
The presence of the nutcracker carved and painted to look like a festively dressed man is so widespread today that one might not even realize it was first found in Europe. Bring an added dose of decorative authenticity to your family and friends by purchasing a nutcracker while in Germany. They are associated with good luck, and lore dictates that the first anthropomorphic nutcracker was fabricated by a doll-maker who won a contest for this creative and charming design of a sharply dressed man.
Likely, any trip to Germany involved sampling a hearty amount of beer. A way to share the good cheer accompanied with consuming a quality German brew would be to bring back a Christmas-themed beer stein. Trying to get the brews themselves through customs might be a nuisance, and they are sure to weigh down the luggage, so the stein is the next best thing. It’ll make anyone who gets to drink from it on Christmas feel like royalty. Christmas steins often come with depictions of Santa Claus on them, but they certainly are not limited to this particular Christmas motif.