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Christmas - the festival of love and peace

Starting with the Advent season, Christmas festivities culminate in the celebration of the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. Together with Easter and Whitsun, Christmas is one of the three main festivals of the Christian Church. Christians und others around the world celebrate Christmas as the festival of love and peace. These days, this usually takes the form of a family festival where gifts are exchanged.
The Christmas period extends from the day before the birth of Jesus Christ on 24 December to the Sunday after Epiphany, the feast which celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men. In Germany, Christmas Eve (24 December) is the start of the Christmas celebrations. Many Germans attend an evening service in a church, where carols are sung and the biblical Christmas story is read out.
Sometimes children also perform a Nativity play, which presents the Christmas story as it is told in the Gospel of Luke. After the service, it is time to go home and exchange presents. These have already been put below the Christmas tree, which is decorated with glowing candles and colourful baubles. This is what everyone has been looking forward to, especially the children. The Christmas Eve celebrations are normally brought to a close with a family meal.
Christmas and the Advent period are a time of hope and for many the most delightful season of the year. In the towns and cities the streets are brightly lit during the festive season, with fairy lights and colourful Christmas decorations everywhere. Windows are decorated with sparkling stars and other decorations made of multi-coloured paper. Many Christmas markets in beautiful historical locations in towns and villages across Germany open their gates at the start of the Advent season. Whole districts are submerged in a magical sea of light, while huge festively adorned pine trees grace the market squares and a lovely smell of baked apples, lebkuchen, mulled wine and bratwurst wafts through the air. Hundreds of lovingly decorated market stalls offer an almost endless array of Christmas decorations and handicrafts, while toys and local specialities provide plenty of unusual gift ideas for the whole family.