German Food Guide
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Traditional Christmas Eve Meals

     Traditional Christmas Eve Meals
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The meal on Christmas Eve in Germany is usually a simple one - something that doesn't take much time to prepare. There are a number of reasons behind this tradition.

First, historically, the 40 days before Christmas were a time fasting. This fast ended on Christmas Day, at which time all food and eating restrictions were gone and one could again enjoy a feast. Beginning in the 20th century, this fasting period was no longer observed. However, the tradition remains today to keep the Christmas Eve meal simple and light. 

Second, the meal on Christmas Day is a huge feast enjoyed by family and guests.   Keeping the meal simple on Christmas Eve gives the home chef time to begin preparing for the Christmas meal the day before.

Third, many families in Germany attend church services and open gifts on Christmas Eve (not to mention it is still a work day) So, a lighter meal, which is easy to prepare, fits better into a busy day.

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #1: Potato Salad (Kartoffelsalat)
The most popular Christmas Eve meal is potato salad. It is easy to prepare and delicious. Every family has their favorite version of potato salad. 
Potato Salad (with Mayonaise)
Potato Salad (without Mayonaise)
Bavarian Potato Salad

The potato salad is rarely served on its own. It is accompanied by a simple meat dish, one that is easy to prepare. Here are some Christmas Eve favorites:  Schnitzel, Frikadelle, Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Frankfurter

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #2: Soup
Another popular Christmas Eve meal is soup. It is easy to prepare and ideal for Christmas Eve because it can be made ahead of time then just warmed up at meal time. Especially for a white Christmas, what better way to warm up from the cold than a nice bowl of hot soup - your family and guests will be most appreciative. Here are some other popular Christmas Eve soups:
Gulasch Soup (Goulaschsuppe)
Lentil soup (Linsensuppe)
Pea soup (Erbsensuppe)
Gaisburger Marsch
Leberknödelsuppe (Liver Dumpling Soup)
Rindfleischsuppe (Beef Soup)

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #3: Carp
Another classic Christmas Eve meal is carp. The Christmas Carp (Weihnachtskarpfen) originates during a time when the Christian and Catholic churches required a pre-Christmas fast.  This meant no meat was allowed until Christmas Day.  Fish was allowed, and since the carp was thought to symbolize water, renewal, life, and fruitfulness, it quickly became a favorite meal for Christmas Eve. 
Carp  (Weihnachtskarpfen)

An old custom related to the Christmas Carp is to take the fish's bones and place then under a fruit tree on December 25th. This is supposed to bring a good harvest of fruit in the next year.

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #4: Fondue
A more recent Christmas Eve tradition is fondue.  A fondue meal can last for hours, which makes it a great way for friends and family to spend a quality Christmas Eve together.
Cheese Fondue and Meat Fondue

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #4: Raclette
Another recent Christmas Eve tradition is Raclette.  Raclette originated in Switzerland, but is very popular in Germany.  For Raclette, a special appliance, an electric Raclette grill, is used to melt individual portions of cheese on small broiling trays. Each guest then adds his/her own combination of seasonings, vegetables (such as boiled potatoes, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes), meats, and bread. Many Raclette grills also have a grilling area on top, where you can cook meats and vegetables.

Traditional Christmas Eve Meal #6: Herring Salad
The traditional herring salad served on Christmas Eve is made from herring filets, red beets, pickles, onions, apples, potatoes, and eggs.  It is served with fresh bread or toast.
Herring Salad

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