They get you into the festive mood and some people even think they have a calming effect on their driving. It’s just that small Christmas trees are not allowed in cars – at least if they’re illuminated and their lights can also be seen from outside.

Car enthusiasts sometimes use the term “Christmas tree” to mean a collection of extra headlights attached to the radiator grill. These types of “tree decorations” have become rare on modern cars. That’s mainly because of a lack of sturdy places to fix them to, such as proper bumpers. During Advent, there’s a different kind of Christmas tree popping up in truck cabs in particular – real ones. But they can be problematic in contrast to the metaphorical ones. While there are rules for these trees made from headlights, a small Christmas tree with lights is always forbidden, at least in Germany. Apart from the ones perhaps that shine their proud yet sad little lights into the footwell.

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No light must be visible from outside. At least German traffic regulations (StVZO) say so. Perhaps it’s their revenge for not having much of a say in car lighting anymore. Because, when it comes to lights, pretty much only the international rules of the ECE now apply. But there simply aren’t any rules or even approvals for car Christmas trees. So there’s this addition to paragraph 49 of the StVZO saying that “decorative lighting such as small Christmas trees at or in driver cabs … are not permissible”. Incidentally, the same rule also mentions “LED nameplates with lights flashing in any color and running around the nameplate” and illuminated company signs, prohibiting them as well.

Some drivers and especially truckers may consider such regulations on Christmas trees as exaggerated and petty. Most policemen don’t seem to want to disturb the peaceful Christmas period with complaints about the small luminous trees either. But unfortunately not all. That’s why every now and then there are reports of controls at truck stops. A fine may even be due. The reason would then be that non-authorized “lighting equipment” was used.

Incidentally, the ban also includes illuminated wheel arches, underbodies and washer jets, and not just at Christmas. As a general rule of thumb, only the things that carry an approval mark are allowed to shine. This is either a circled E or the now very rare old German marking with the letter K and a wavy line.

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