Monthly Archives: December 2010

Icicles

As some of the snow starts to thaw on the roof, we’re getting an impressive array of icicles this year. I’m tempted to nip out with a pair of teaspoons and try to play Tubular Bells on them!

 

I’m not the only one who has spotted the potential play value of icicles. We’ve had icicle sword fights, icicle star wars battles and strange ice spikes now emerge from many of our plant pots.

 

Fun toys!

More fun than the actual Christmas presents!

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Christmas tree traditions in Germany

This year we actually did the proper German thing with the Christmas tree. OK, it wasn’t intentional. It was because of all the snow that we didn’t go out early and buy a tree. It was the 23rd by the time I managed to scrape the car free of ice and snow and venture out in search of food, last minute presents and a Christmas tree. Fortunately the entire German nation had also been holed up in the blizzard, so Christmas trees had not sold out.

The tree on arrival was dumped unceremoniously outside the front door where it spent the night.

On Christmas Eve we brought the tree inside and decorated it.

Had we been proper Germans, of course, we would have risked burning the house down and used proper candles on the tree. Given that our house is made of wood and lined with bookshelves, this didn’t sound like the most sensible idea though, so we stuck to electric lights.

Had we been proper Germans, we would have spent the evening sitting round the tree singing “Stille Nacht” and various other traditional Christmas songs. Again, being philistines, in fact although we did gather in the room with the tree, we made our own music which was mainly not particularly Christmassy – although the kids did perform a fabulous jazz version of “Leise rieselt der Schnee” with Dad on piano, son on guitar, youngest daughter on vocals and eldest daughter on the cajon.  Glühwein and Kinderpunsch all round. Admittedly with mince pies.

Presents definitely not opened on Christmas Eve though. We’re not that German!

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So what do dachshunds do in this weather, huh?

I’ve been watching the cats struggling through the snow (and we have had plenty of new snow overnight), and I am yet again struck by the sheer impracticality of those Germans who choose to keep a dachshund as a pet.

Not too bad under the trees...

If you only have the odd inch or two of snow it’s not too bad.  For a cat that’s sort of ankle-deep. For a dachshund that’s already over the knees.

I'm getting ice in my armpits Mum!

But we’re talking serious snow here… well up to a cat’s shoulders. So what do dachshunds do? Tunnel through it?

 

 

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Snowscape in Germany

Yet another load of snow has dumped over our region overnight. In the last couple of weeks I have acquired an Umlaut. I used to say: “Ooooh! Snow!” Now it’s more of a: “Öööööh Snow!”

I can tell that I am becoming German though, because this morning, I found myself outside with a shovel clearing paths between all the various doors on our farmhouse. What on earth has got into me?

Here are a few pictures of our latest snowscape.

Planet Germany

View up the lane

Digging the paths

(Minimal) Germanic snow shovelling has taken place.

It's cold up the garden

Probably where Santa lives...

Strangely enough, I can’t seem to interest the cats in this natural beauty at all!

Wake me when it's spring....

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The angry new word of the year: Wutbürger

The German language has a body which oversees the development of it’s language. The German Language Society tracks down and documents new words which enter the German language. Not only that, every year they select a winner.

Of course German is very prone to adopting new words. Not only are there the very many Denglish imports, but German is the sort of language which automatically creates new words all the time, by sticking ever more components together until you have created the concept you want to convey. Such as Flauschhandtuchbenutzer or Zehenzwischenraumabtrockner.

To be a winning word in the eyes of the German Language Society though, you have to be a word of the times. You have to reflect the mood of the particular period in which you were developed and adopted by the media.

This year’s word is Wutbürger. It means enraged citizen. In a year where people across Germany – and indeed much of Europe – have taken to the streets in protest at a variety of issues – the Wutbürger is the New German of 2010.

Of course you have to wonder what previous protesting Burgers were referred to as. What about 1968 when there were riots on the streets across many German cities and the police fired back with water cannon? Well apparently that was more of a Jugendrevolte.  That’s  “youth revolting”  or “revolting youth”  depending on which side of thirty you happened to be at the time.

But what will happen when the English language decides to assimilate this new German favourite?

To the English ear, the Wutbürger sounds more like another variant of a Hamburger or Beefburger. Perhaps one which will contain more chilli sauce and mustard than usual – or even a few Jalapeno Peppers, just to express its outrage and desire for revenge. It might also have the properties of a dodgy kebab – the sort of food which you wolf down when hungry, but which reappears with alarming speed. It almost certainly wouldn’t contain salad.

The Wutbürger could even end up as the weapon of choice at food fights between today’s revolting youth and the powers of law and order. It would be a massive hit with the media, due to the presence of much red chilli sauce (indistinguishable from blood) which will make for dramatic front page photos.  I can just see it: “Prince Charles struck by a Wutbürger on his way to the theatre – one dinner shirt badly injured.”

Bite me if you dare... GRRRRRR

Wutbürger and chips anyone?

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German Christmas pyramids

Christmas is the time of year when you construct pyramids in your house.  I don’t mean a Valley of the Kings stone affair… I mean a wooden one with candles and a windmill on the top. Obviously.

The Christmas pyramid is a sort of Heath-Robinson contraption which uses the convection current of hot air from candles to power a windmill and spin the pyramid. Unlike most other German inventions, this one has absolutely no practical purpose. None whatsoever.

Most German homes are content with a small table-top affair these days. Something that looks like this.

By Richard Huber (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

German towns and cities tend to build rather grander versions – often displayed at the local Christmas market.  The figures on the different tiers of the pyramids rotate, to indicate to people that they have drunk rather more Glühwein than is good for them.  Or something.

Creative Commons

Originally these decorative carved pyramids date from the middle ages and symbolise light driving away darkness at Christmas time (literally and figuratively).  They pre-date the Christmas tree, which became a more popular decoration – probably due to it being easier to chop down a tree and bring it into the house than to spend months whittling away carving a wooden Christmas pyramid.

Many Germans still use real candles to illuminate their Christmas trees – at the annual risk of burning the house down, of course. What is it about Christmas that suddenly makes an otherwise sensible nation forget about Vorsprung durch Technik?

Wikimedia Commons

In the old days families would add to their collection of wooden figures in the Christmas pyramid every year, in the same way that nowadays people buy a few new baubles for the Christmas tree. For those who are trying to decide between a real or an artificial Christmas tree this year – a Christmas Pyramid could be the most amazing artificial tree you ever bought!

Alternatively, if you start carving now, you might have your very own pyramid ready for Christmas 2011….

 

 

 

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Warning: Glühwein may seriously impede your fashion sense

It’s mid Advent in Germany, the Christmas markets are in full swing. And a worrying annual phenomenon is becoming apparent. The more Glühwein people drink, the worse their fashion sense becomes.

It all starts out quite innocuously. At the start of Advent, Germans look relatively similar to their all-year-round selves. They typically dress in a sensible, sober and sometimes even quite stylish fashion.

Step away from the Grog!

But note here… the slippery slope lurking in the background. The hot pots of Glühwein and Grog, the bottles with a Schuß of extra Christmas cheer… the wafting scent of cinnamon and aniseed…

After a Glühwein or two, possibly an Eierpunsch or a Grog, or even a dip into the Feuerzangenbowle… strange things start to happen. The first and most catastrophic is a total loss of fashion sense.

Under normal circumstances, this might not be a problem. But a Christmas market is packed with unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion-wares, waiting to pounce. Before the unsuspecting drinker knows it, they have blasted their entire Christmas budget on a range of ethnic knitwear, jewellery handcrafted from old tin cans and a tinsel Christmas-tree shaped hat to top it all.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Weihnachtsmarkt_Aachen_%28Markt%29.jpg

Unscrupulous vendors of dubious fashion items

By late in the evening, Santa hats are de rigeur, along with strange colourful scarves and jackets which may once have hung as curtains in someone’s kitchen. The cluster of raucous revellers is oblivious to the fashion crimes which they are committing. They are only focused on the next Glühwein and whether the stall selling rainbow fingerless gloves with the tassels is still open.

So this advent, I’d just like to issue a sincere warning to all revellers. However tempting it may be…whatever you do… please, think of the children… just don’t drink and shop!

By Orin Zebest (Flickr: The Christmas Band) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every time you do, a kitten dies….

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