Friday, December 23, 2011

Frohe Weinachten

It is the eve of Christmas Eve, and so I figured I would write about Christmas.
You should also know that right now one of our neighbors is playing Feliz Navidad really loud and we can hear it through the floor. That's the Christmas spirit!

Several people have asked how the Germans celebrate, so I will tell you what I know.  The word for Christmas is Weinacht, and the big day is Dec. 24th. German schools have about 2 weeks off and most businesses are closed the 24th and 25th, though the bakeries and grocery stores are open in the morning on the 24th. From what I understand, Germans spend the 24th with immediate family, go to church if they do that sort of thing, open gifts, and have a family dinner. On the 25th they celebrate more with extended family, and on the 26th spend more time with friends, neighbors etc. Christmas as Americans know it was largely invented by people in Germany and northern Europe, so they have a lot of the same traditions we do. No, there are no huge light-up plastic Santas, and no robotic reindeer on the front lawn. There are, however, lots of Christmas trees, Advent wreaths, stockings, candles in windows, and even mistletoe.

The Germans sometimes use real candles on their wreaths and Christmas trees. This sounds like a fire trap to me, but makes more sense if I try to think like a German. You see, they believe a lot in rules here and people follow the rules almost all of the time. Consequently, things work pretty well. So the logical rule about trees is, if you light real candles on your tree you need to be in the room and watching so that you'd know if the tree starts to burn. If you decide to leave and your house burns down, well that's your own fault. We've noticed this about other parts of life in Germany too. Like at the hockey game they don't stop selling beer after the 2nd period. In fact they sell it well after the game has ended. You are a grown up and should know when to stop drinking, and if you don't and you make a fool of yourself or fall down, that's your own fault. When I go to the pool, there are no life guards. I guess they figure that if you are going to swim laps, you already know how to swim and shouldn't need someone to watch you. If you need to walk across the train tracks, there's no gate to keep you from doing so. You should, however, look both ways so you don't get hit by a train.

So back to Christmas, Germans traditionally eat goose for Christmas dinner. I thought it would be fun to try cooking one, or part of one, since Brian and I are here for Christmas. At the grocery store yesterday I saw a whole fresh goose, which was about 10 or 12 pounds. It cost 42 euros!! That's like $58. Just to buy the breast or the leg was expensive, even the frozen ones. So I bought a beef roast instead. I will experiment with goose another time. The other foods they have a lot around Christmas time, aside from chocolate (which there is a lot, and it's delicious) of are:

Marzipan - It comes in all shapes and sizes, it's creamy and sort of nutty and people seem to either love it or hate it.
Stollen - which is sort of a dense pound cake with raisins in it and powdered sugar on top.
Lebkuchen - similar to gingerbread but more cake-like and with stronger spices (cardamom maybe?) and is often sold covered in little hearts or cakes covered with chocolate.

There is a shortage of Christmas cookies, which I have personally tried to eliminate. I made about 5 batches that went to a couple of friends and school staff who have been nice to us and the rest went to Brian's eighth graders. I just made another batch yesterday so we'd have more for ourselves. There are also not a lot of candy canes. There's nothing I can do about that.

Of course the Weinachtsmarkt is the big outdoor market that goes through all of Advent. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago so look back if you missed it. Sadly, the market ended yesterday.

I apologize to any real Germans if I have misrepresented you holiday celebrations. Feel free to correct me. This is just what I have figured out by talking to people and looking around.

What are we doing for Christmas? Well, we leave for our 10 day Egypt trip on Monday the 26th, so that's the big excitement. We have a tree, but with electric lights. I guess we don't trust ourselves with the candles... For Christmas Eve we don't have much planned, other than watching some Christmas movies and eating our roast beef dinner. On Christmas day we will go to church, eat some brunch, pack, and probably watch more Christmas movies. There are some packages that arrived in the mail and allegedly a few more coming in January, so we have a couple of gifts to open too. And we will play Christmas music. Apparently Germans like Feliz Navidad so we will make sure to put that one on the playlist.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.