This past weekend was the one when the lady at the bakery counter (who talks in an incredibly high voice, as if she is inhaling helium balloons in the back room) wishes you a happy fourth Advent Sunday. For sale under her glass counter are an array of German Christmas-time treats. There are mounds of Stollen, and Lebkuchen and Zimtsterne. You'd think something delicious would come from the land where they invented oh Tannenbaum.
But no. They all taste like sawdust. Some taste like spiced sawdust, dusted with sugar. They look nice until you bite in and reach for a bucket of milk to wash them down.
Which is partly why I spent many hours this week baking. I make very buttery, sugary, artificially colored cookies that melt in your mouth. Germans probably hate them.
I have written about Advent before, but it's been so long that I might as well do it again. A week before Christmas and people are just starting to take home their trees. There are some tasteful candles in windows and poinsettias at the flower shop. But the colorful, brightly lit, noisy Christmas celebration is reserved for the Christmas market in town. This is something that Americans, even with our light-up reindeer and inflatable Santas, cannot beat.
And this Christmas we headed to another market. Hamburg was the destination, to visit little Fiona (her parents too). A day-long Christmas market crawl is usually not appealing, at least not without several mugs full of hot Glühwein along the way. This year, though, record-setting warmth made it like Christmas in April. In weather that would have had Minnesotans pulling on their shorts, most Germans I see on the streets have been dressing in puffy coats and hats and multiple scarves. They're dressing more for the calendar than for the temperature. But after a few weeks of the warm spell, I noticed a change. The scarves have loosened and the hats have come off. The down coats are half unzipped. Pretty soon, maybe people will start breaking out their shorts.
I am not in Germany this Christmas, and not back home either. Brian and I are heading to Finland, where hopefully the temperatures are colder and snow is falling. We'll be skiing and looking at the northern lights and searching for Santa Claus. We might try eating some reindeer too (sorry Rudolph). We can also try out the Finnish cookies and see if they taste like sawdust.
I will make sure to write all about it.
So from my home to yours, wherever it may be, I wish you a very peaceful and joyful Christmas.
- 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.