The A to Z of German Christmas: N is for… Nüsse

Walnuts and chestnuts
Walnuts and chestnuts

Nuts (Nüsse) feature far and wide around Christmastime in Germany: walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts are all very popular. Nuts can be found ground up for Lebkuchen dough, used whole or in pieces as decorations on cookies, and almonds, of course, are the most important ingredient in marzipan.

Nuts aren’t just used in festive baking however, but also as sweet or savoury snacks in their own right. You’ll find roasted chestnuts and candied almonds for sale at Christmas markets – the former particularly good for keeping fingers warm, the latter for satisfying a sweet tooth.

N is also for…

Nürnberg (Nuremberg): home to one of Germany’s largest and most popular Christmas markets as well as one of its most famous sausages, the Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, hoards of Germans and tourists alike make a beeline for Nuremberg during Advent.

Nussknacker (nutcracker): Germany’s hand-painted wooden nutcrackers were originally used for cracking open nuts at the dinner table, using the jaw of what was traditionally a soldier or king. Today, they’re mostly used as ornaments or Christmas tree decorations, the most famous of them made in the Ore mountains (Erzgebirge), where miners who lost their jobs when the silver ore mines closed turned to wooden toy-making instead.

Nikolaus (St Nicholas): Each year on November 5, children put their boots out in the hope that Nikolaus will stop by and fill them with presents. Get the full lowdown on exactly who he is at The Local. (There’s also the threat of Krampus turning up instead if they haven’t been good.)