In Germany there are three different types of Santa's who bring gifts. We have lived in Germany for 3.5 years now, and are becoming more familiar with local traditions. At Christmas time there are a few German traditions which are different from American Christmas traditions.
Christmas Markets mark the beginning of the Christmas season. They are all over Germany. Large cities have markets open from the beginning of Advent in November until Christmas. Small villages have markets opened for a weekend between advent and Christmas. Most markets are good for eating, drinking gluwein, and purchasing crafty gifts.
Of the three santas, St. Nikolas is the first to arrive and visits children on December 5th. He dresses in red and white, rides on a white horse and looks much like a bishop. Children leave a boot or shoe outside the door and he fills it with nuts, clementines, oranges and chocolate Santas. If the children have been good of course.
Christkind (Christ Child) comes on December 24th to leave
presents for children. He usually dresses in a white robe and looks
similar to Santa Claus.
Santa Claus is better known as the Weinnachtsmann. He looks like the American Santa Claus. Most children believe in either Christkind or the Weinnachtsmann depending on their religion and region of Germany.
In my family and many other American families, we put up our Christmas tree soon after Thanksgiving. In Germany, gifts are exchanged and the Christmas tree is set up on December 24th. The tree remains until January 6th which is Three Kings Day.
Both countries offer warm traditions children will remember their whole life long.