The one German Christmas tradition that I cherish the most is the reverent moment you get to sit back and enjoy a decorated tree, real or not, all lit up by the warmth and glow of the tiny, flickering flames from multiple candles.

If you weren't aware...Germans have a history of putting chime sized candles, which are about 4 inches tall, using special candle holder clips to secure them to their Christmas trees, for decoration and ceremony.

It's always fascinated and confounded me when I tell people about it and they express how scary the idea of putting candles on a Christmas tree is for them.

My first thoughts are how can you miss out on one of the most beautiful and magical experiences of Christmas, and then I can't help but wonder who leaves open candle flames unattended?

Generations and millions of Germans do it and don't burn down their houses at this time!

It's similar to the birthday tradition.

You don't leave lit birthday cake candles unattended, do you?


So, just as with the birthday cake, there's a timeless technique and some timing involved in the setting up and burning of the candles which I'm happy to share.

I'll explain my own experience of a German Christmas Eve, as it's an individual household and regional experience, with each family tweaking it to suit their needs, as we had to.

As it was explained to me when I got old enough to be in on the secret magic of the German tradition, Saint Nikolaus was the bringer of Christmas, in that he not only brought the presents but the fully decorated tree as well.

I'm no expert on the history of German Christmas traditions but my take on the fact that the tree is part of the gift of Christmas is that the love and respect for nature is part of the season.

I am pretty certain it has something to do with Pagan history which was incorporated into the Christian tradition, but that's a future blog post.

So, for the month of December there would be holiday decorations going up around the house that the family would make, bring out, or purchase and set up themselves, but no tree or presents until Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is the time when Germans celebrate Christmas and do so long into the night all thanks to St. Nick.

In Germany, where the houses are built to a particular standard, there's usually a room where you want to hold the celebration, of which you can have the door to it shut to assist in St. Nicks magic.

Here in Canada, homes have changed over time to much more of an open concept way to be my parents had to include us in some of the process.

During Christmas Eve day the whole family is very busy getting ready for the event of a visiting Saint and the celebration of the evening.

They tidy and clean the home, make sure their special party outfits were clean and pressed, as well as prepare the evenings special meal.

The children are responsible for helping with all of this and they also make sure the gifts they had made to give were finalized and wrapped.

During this time, busy and unaware children didn't realize that an adult or two would be sneaking in and out of the designated room to decorate the magical tree and put the presents under it.

In my house, the tree would arrive out of the blue the morning of Christmas Eve and we children would help to decorate it.

I think the story was the St Nikolaus was so busy that he needed our help in this department.

Once the tree was set up in it's support stand in a spot that would be safe from curtains or other flammables, it was time to start the decorating process.

Being German, there's a particular technique to decorating the tree the right way.

First, my dad would figure out where the candle holders would go before any of the other decorations because it's so important to make sure they're situated where they won't burn anything. 

What you need to do is visualize the tree as a candelabra.

The branches that come out at angles where the tip of it doesn't have any other branch nearby or, most importantly, above are the most suitable to attach the clips.

Once the branch is decided upon, clip it somewhere between 3 inches from the tip to the point where offshoots branch out.

This way the flame isn't close the edge where someones passing outfit might catch fire.

Now you do need to be aware that not all trees are suitable for this.


We'd always 'recieve' a balsam tree because their structure works so well, but I'm sure whoever you buy trees from can help you choose an appropriate tree.

You want the candle and its flame to have enough room for the heat of the flame to burn for the duration, which is usually around an hour, plus remember that decorations will be hanging as well.

If you follow the steps it should come together easily.

My dad would always try to get 24 candles on the 10 foot tall tree (we were lucky to have tall ceilings in that room) to represent the days we were celebrating.

Of course during this whole time Christmas music is playing to create the mood and once those candles are in the right place then you can dig into the decorations.

So since candles only burn for a certain amount of time you do need to supplement with electric lights for the rest of the evening.

My dad would make sure the string lights went in slightly further into the tree so that no flames would come into contact with wiring.

Once that was done we'd put up our baubles.

The attempt with these was to hang shiny ones somewhere near enough to be able to reflect the light.

Tinsel was always the last item to go on the tree, which I quite enjoyed.

It's challenging to find nowadays, but we had true tinsel made of tin that had such a wonderful weight to them so that they hung nicely without blowing in breezes which might swing them into flames.

I myself currently have different tin elements on my tree that are more akin to icicles but the tin tinsel had a beautiful curtain effect similar to a shiny flapper dress.

I remember taking the time to carefully place three strands separately at the tip of as many branches as we could, which was a lot of tinsel!

Time consuming but well worth it!

Once the tree was decorated, we were to go and gather our own presents for others and put them under the tree.

These would be the only presents under the tree at this point.

So by then it would've been close to dinner time and we kids would get more excited to see the tree near completion.

We would wash up and put on our special outfits to start the evening which constituted setting the dinner table with the fine cutlery, china, and crystal.

Ready for a feast with a Saint!

Dinner of course was a feast and I don't think I need to go into particulars here because everyone eats according to what the family decides.

After dinner, we would help clear the table and go to our rooms to make sure that they were spic and span tidy.

We were told that Saint Nikolaus wouldn't come if our rooms were messy and not to come out until we were called.

Of course, as we got old enough to remember how this unfolds every year, the roughly 10-15 minute wait with anticipation was nerve wracking and we would sit waiting for our names to be called.

We would hear the sound of church bells ringing (which were on the German Christmas Carol records my parents had), making us perk our ears up.

Then our names rang out.

As soon as we opened our bedroom doors we new something special and magical was coming.

We could see warm flickering lights bouncing off the dark walls in the hallway.

Walking toward the beckoning sound and light the anticipation all built into a crescendo when we turned the corner.

Upon seeing the candle lit Christmas tree my eyes would glisten, and it felt like they grew in size in order to soak up the immersive beauty I beheld.

With no other lights on but the candles on the tree, it made the entire space seem like we were in some magical sphere contained with in the glowing light.

I can still remember this giant twinkling tree of my childhood towering above me shining and glowing as if it had been dressed to impress the Saint himself.

My parents, sibling and I would all get snugly on the couches facing the tree and then we would just sing along with the carols that were playing off the record while we enjoyed watching the candles burn.

Of course, the carols give you the opportunity to consider what the Christmas celebration is all truly about.

It's not the gift giving, but considering how this holiday all started...the love and gratitude you feel for you feel about who you are...of being a person that the Christ child would receive.

Since I'm not religious, I imagine it's similar to how it is in Churches when people gather to sing hymns and carols.

Of course, I can't speak to what goes on in everyone elses head but this is where my brain takes me every year when I have an opportunity to recreate this moment.

Once the candles get to the end we make sure to snuff them out and put on the electric lights.

My sibling and I were always excited to be able to give presents so we made sure that our parents got theirs first and then we would go and retrieve one of our presents to open.

We would spend the evening snacking on treats and sipping special drinks in between the gift opening, showing each other what we got, and thanking the gift giver for each gift we opened.

It was a long drawn out event but it really felt like a super special moment.

To this day I search for and try to recreate this sort of special feeling I experienced as a child.

If you try to incorporate some of this magical tradition it could extend and create another level of joy for your holiday season.

I guess I not only shared about the Christmas tree candles but also my memories of Christmas past.

So glad I went there and I hope I was able to take you along with me!

Wishing all of you beautiful souls a blessed holiday, a cozy hearth, a merry time with loved ones, and most of all peaceful hearts!


If you’re interested in the music that we played during these festivities then just click on the link to the Spotify (free to listen to) playlist I created.

Wild Hedge Nest Spotify Weihnachtzeit Playlist

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