Tag Archives: christmas

It’s that time of the year again…

… Yes, late Summer. When the Christmas stuff starts appearing in the German supermarkets.

Lebkuchen and other Christmas goodies

Seasonal fare, unseasonally early…

They’ve still got all the Oktoberfest produce in too.

Muenchener Weisswurst

Weisswurst in Lederhosen? What?

I only popped in for a carton of milk!

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German Christmas markets 2011

Over the past few weeks in most German towns, little wooden huts have sprung up on squares and along the main shopping streets. Behind shutters we heard scuffling and hammering, mysterious bags and boxes were unloaded, cables laid, lights tested… wafts of aniseed and cinnamon and ginger…  a general air of mystery and excitment.

And now, this weekend most of the Christmas market stalls are finally opening up. The bratwurst and waffles are sizzling, the wine mulling, the stalls full of craftwork and sweetmeats are overflowing with novelties.

I walked through part of the Duisburg Christmas market yesterday lunchtime and got an impression of what they have to offer there… for a start the choice of food was surprising. One stall was just beginning to roast a whole hog…

Spit roast

Why settle for a Bratwurst when you could eat the whole pig?

Another was starting to flame-grill some salmon…

Salmon smoking

The smoking ban clearly doesn't extend to salmon...

Traditional sweets, nuts and candied fruits are everywhere…

Toasted Almonds

It wouldn't be Advent without toasted almonds

Being only a short distance from the Dutch border, there are plenty of specialities from the Netherlands too – sold from Dutch gabled huts

Poffertjes

Poffertjes are technically a Dutch speciality - but the Germans love them

I’m not entirely sure why there was a Viking ship in the town centre selling Glühwein – but it certainly stood out. I didn’t see any Vikings, and the figure of Saint Nicholas on board looked decidedly tipsy…

Glühwein stand

Glühwein served from a Viking longship? Well, I suppose it gets cold up North....

No Christmas market is complete without a German Christmas Pyramid. This one was a fine specimen because it actually has an integrated Glühwein stand…  no German city should be without one!

German Christmas Pyramid

Glühwein served from a German Christmas Pyramid

 

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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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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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Images of Christmas in Germany

This year felt like a proper German Christmas.

For a start there was snow. Proper snow, rather than just a dusting which turns to slush on contact with the ground. This is what our driveway looked like.

For a couple of days it looked like we might not be able to get out and buy a Christmas tree at all. But eventually we did venture onto the roads… and found to our surprise that they had been cleared enough to be drivable.

For once it was pretty late when we put up the tree… Christmas Eve no less. We must be turning German!

One of the things I like about Christmas trees is all the different types of decorations you can buy here. I’ve been collecting a few every year for the 18 years we’ve lived in Germany. I went for non-breakable, child oriented designs mainly, because for a lot of those years we had young children… and for some of the other years we had kittens in the house.

Here are some close-ups from the tree.

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Happy Christmas from snowy Germany

Getting ready for Christmas is one of those mammoth tasks that I usually can’t even get my head round without either going back to bed or reaching for the sherry bottle (usually in vain as we finished it last Christmas).

This years preparations were particularly fraught, because just when there were vitually no shopping days left, all of a sudden huge quantities of snow fell from the sky. Lovely and Christmassy, you might say….

… but not if you’re trying to do the shopping and the car looks like this!

So during the week running up to Christmas, we were all stuck at home. It would have been possible to dig out the car, of course. But in Germany it would have been illegal for me to drive it in these conditions, as I don’t have snow tyres.

For four days we sat tight, huddled round a log fire, eating whatever was already stored in the freezer or in the pantry. We went back to making traditional Christmas decorations, rather than putting up bought ones. My youngest daughter made some lovely scented baubles from oranges and cloves.

Finally the roads cleared enough for us to make one big supermarket run and stock up on everything we need for Christmas. The tree is up… the lights are on… there’s a huge stack of logs by the fireplace…  so Happy Christmas everyone!

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