Article Archive >> Featured Topics

German Christmas Traditions at Hager House

German Christmas Traditions at Hager House

Hagerstown, MD (November 2, 2007)- Have you ever heard of Saint Barbara, Christkindel, and Knecht Ruprecht? You might be surprised to learn that these characters were very important in the way Germans celebrated Christmas from the 4th to the 19th centuries and effected greatly how we celebrate the holiday here in America.
The Jonathan Hager House and Museum presents "German Christmas" this holiday season. According to Historic Sites Facilitator, John Bryan, Germany, probably more than any other country, has the longest history and widest variety of Christmas traditions.
"Because of its many varied religious and political beliefs, some Christmas customs were celebrated and popular in one region of Germany, but completely unknown in another. It is appropriate that the Hager House puts on a- German Christmas' display since Jonathan Hager, founder of Hagerstown, was a native of Germany. Hager himself more than likely either participated in, or at least heard of many of the customs and superstitions featured in this tour," said Bryan.
Visitors will hear stories that range from how the Christmas Tree and the Yule Log got their start to tales involving the Wise Men, a myriad of gift givers, and some obscure legends involving werewolves and barking dogs.
"You may be surprised to learn that Germany has several legends involving those who bring gifts at Christmas. These include St. Nicholas, who arrived on December 6, and the Christkindel, or Christ Child, who appears on Christmas Eve," said Bryan. "There are also many legends surrounding those who came to punish children who had been naughty during the past year. These include Knecht Ruprecht, and the hideous Klausbauf, a shaggy monster with horns, black face, fiery eyes, long red tongue, and chains that clank when he moves.
And in Germany, Christmas presents also arrived in many different ways."
The little known legend of Saint Barbara is quite touching. According to Bryan, "Barbara was actually executed by her father in the 4th century because of her conversion to Christianity.
Before her death, she found a dried cherry tree branch and put it in water. The branch bloomed before her death, and the bright blossoms consoled her. Thus, ever since, any cherry tree branch that blooms on Christmas Day represents good luck."
In addition to the many customs, the Hager House will be decorated for the holiday season in traditional German fashion. Built in 1739. the Hager House is the original home of Jonathan Hager, who laid out the city bearing his name in 1762.
"German Christmas" will be featured daily November 27 through December 30, excluding Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sundays, 2 to 5pm. Admission is: adults, $3.00, senior citizens, $2.00, children 6-12, $1.00, and children under 6 are admitted free of charge. Please plan to bring the whole family and experience how many of our early ancestors celebrated Christmas! The Hager House is located in Hagerstown City Park opposite the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. For more information about German Christmas and all of our programs and events please call 301-739-8393, or email:

Printable version

<< back to Articles on Featured Topics
<< back to All Articles