In Germany, from early December to Christmas Eve, the winter air is filled with the aroma of baked fruit loaves; bratwurst, or sausage; roasted nuts; and lebkuchen, a spicy cookie. The German shoppers make their way between the red-roofed stalls, purchasing food, toys, Christmas decorations. The special shopping item is prune men and prune women.
These unique figures, about ten inches high, have arms and legs made of prunes threaded over wire, dried figs for bodies, and walnut heads painted with expressive faces. Advent wreaths, the first signs of Christmas in Germany, appear on the first Sunday in Advent, about four weeks before Christmas. A single red candle is placed on the wreath each Sunday, so that there are four candles on Christmas Day.
German children ask for presents by writing a letter to the Christ Child. Another tradition is to fill shoes with straw and carrots and leave them outside the front door. It is hoped that when St. Nicholas passes by, he will feed the hungry horse and refill the shoes of good children with apples and nuts. Decorations for Christmas trees include beautiful glass ornaments of many shapes and sizes, wooden angels, straw stars, and lebkuchen baked in different shapes. The German pickle ornament is considered to be a special Christmas ornament in many German households.