Thursday, December 2, 2010

There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.

It's already December. For those of you who don't know, that means the best month is finally here. Germans take Christmas-spirit to a whole new level. Beginning the last week in November, Christmas markets begin to pop up in just about every city. It's not December in Germany without Lebkuchen and Glühwein (Gingerbread and hot spiced wine). I already explained it but the Christmas Markets are held in the Marktplatz of the city and local people put up big booths with hand made goods and treats. You can buy anything from roasted chestnuts to hand carved nativity scenes. They are usually packed with people so it is better to go during the day and always avoid the weekends.

Another popular Christmas tradition is to have an advents calender. The little things with a pocket for each day of advent and there is a piece of candy in each pocket. We have two. There is a huge one in the shape of a large wooden Christmas tree, for each day there are two little pouches; one for me and one for
Philipp. The second is a cloth one with pockets for each and Kevin gets the candy from that one. I am not sure if I ever explained who Kevin is. He is a cousin of my host family and he goes to college around here (he lives in Freiberg) and stays here. He stays here for a few weeks at a time and then spends time at home. As far as I can tell, just about every household has an advent calender. One thing that Germany does right is that the radio stations don't play continuous Christmas music before it's even Thanksgiving.

I almost forgot the mini-Christmas celebration. On December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day. The day where you leave your shoes by the door when you go to bed and apparently Saint Nicholas comes in the night with his "book of sins" and
fills the good kids' shoes with candy and the naughty children get twigs.

Advent wreaths are also used here but they are different. At home most of the people use the traditional 3 purple and 1 pink candle system. At our church we have 4 blue ones and silver one in the center for Christmas Day. Here in Germany they are not exactly a wreath. Its more like a collection of branches placed on a silver platter with 4 reddish candles. Each one is lit on a Sunday.

The Christmas tree started in Germany and I guess it changed drastically on it's journey to the USA. First of all, the tree does not go up in November, it goes up on Christmas Eve. The family decorates in on Christmas Eve with a wide
assortment of lights, ornaments and various other things that we don't use such as fruit and nuts. Also using an artificial tree is basically an outrage. Keeping on the topic of Christmas Eve, it is their Christmas day. The major feast, opening gifts from Santa (Weihnachtsman), the family get-togethers and all the other important parts of Christmas all take place on Christmas Eve. From what I gathered from everyone's explanations everyone goes to church on Christmas eve and when the children come home, the presents mysteriously appear under the tree. Also, the children don't have to wait until the next morning to tear into the presents, they get to open them on Christmas Eve.

Here are some of the American traditions that I am gonna miss.

1.) The Christmas lights.
This does not exist in Germany.

2.)The Christmas songs. There will be no Harking the Herald or Decking the Halls this Christmas. No offense Germany but your Christmas songs are a little boring. Don't worry though, I already found all the good ones on youtube/itunes so there will be American carols this Christmas.

3.) The whole Christmas Eve and Christmas Day thing. It is nice to have two days of celebration and get-togethers.

As most of you know by now we are going away for Christmas so there will be no church services, no sitting home with the extended family, no having to wear matching colors to Christmas Eve service (that's directed to you mom) and no Christmas tree. Even without all of that stuff, I am still really looking forward to this Christmas. It is going to be something totally new for me and not just because I am in Germany, not going to Church and not having a tree is also new. I think this Christmas is going to be a really good one!
Seeing as there is no Christmas tree this year there is mine. All set up and decorated just like in the USA.

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