Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We had a wonderful Christmas this year. Sadly, we didn't get any snow, but we had lots of sunshine which is great especially this time of year in Germany.

First I'd like to say that Christmas seems to be a lot more fun once you have a child. My son had a great time opening his first Christmas presents and playing with his new toys. He got visits from Santa Claus, the Christ Child, and the Christmas Man. The Christ Child and Christmas Man visit children in Germany. To make this Christmas better it would have been nice to have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins around. Hopefully we will be able to celebrate Christmas with extended family sometime in the near future.

I think it's funny how sometimes the simplest (and often cheapest) gifts make a child so happy. My son's favorite new toys seems to be his Rock-A-Stack toy and a soft multi-texture rattle that he likes chewing on and shaking. His favorite "bigger" toy is Scout, a talking dog that says his name and sings songs about him using his name and different things he does. He laughs, smiles, and talks to Scout. He likes playing with his other toys too but these seem to keep his attention the longest.

This Christmas we stayed home and celebrated with the 3 of us. We read the story of Christ's birth to our son and talked about why we celebrate Christmas. On Christmas Eve I cooked our main dish, we had beef tenderloin with blue cheese sauce, turkey bacon wrapped asparagus, stuff mushrooms, and chocolate pie. Christmas Day we had beef tenderloin, steamed asparagus, and steamed sweet potatoes. We also made creme brulee which was delicious and ate enchiladas for dinner.

Overall we could not have asked for a better first Christmas for our boy. He is such a wonderful child and full of life and love. By the way, I forgot to mention previously that he now knows his name. It's so cute, when you say his name he stops and looks at you. We love being parents and feel so blessed to have a child in our lives.

New Years we plan on staying home and watching all our of neighbors shoot fire crackers and rockets.  Last year was quite an eventful night.  We just hope our baby doesn't get too scared with the loud noise.  We wish many blessings to you and your family in 2010.

Christmas Eve Dinner

This year's gingerbread house

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in Germany

We love Christmas. It's such a wonderful holiday celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I love how many families are able to get together during this time. One of the hardest things about living overseas is that nobody else in our family lives overseas with us. Thankfully we have made some wonderful friends over here, attend a great church, and are enjoying our experiences. However, we still miss our friends and family back home, especially during the holidays.

We got our first snow last Sunday, December 13th. It didn't stick but Wednesday night's snow did. It was beautiful.

I thought I would mention a few German Christmas traditions in this post as well as a few differences.

Christmas Tree - Traditionally many Germans wait until Christmas Eve to put up their Christmas tree. Most Americans put it up the day after Thanksgiving. Several of our neighbors have their trees outside on their decks waiting for that special day. Also Germans traditionally avoid sweets until December 24th.
Christmas Tree History - The first known Christmas tree was set up in 1419 in Freiburg, Germany, by the town bakers, who decorated the tree with fruits, nuts, and baked goods, which the children were allowed to remove and eat on New Year's Day.

The Advent calendar (Der Adventskalender) - The calendars are usually made of cardboard and have 24 small windows or flaps. One is opened every day leading up to Christmas. Behind each window is a Christmas scene or motif. Many calendars contain chocolate or candy behind each window, some even have small toys. I have seen most of them with chocolate. You can usually find these in the States and celebrate this German Christmas tradition from afar.

Nicholastag (St. Nicholas Day) - Germans celebrate Nicholastag on December 6th in Germany as well as in other European countries. On the evening before the 6th, children place their newly cleaned shoes (or an old boot) on their front porch in the hope that Nicholas might fill them with nuts, fruits, chocolate, and sweets. If the children have behaved well, their wishes will be fulfilled. Children who have caused mischief will receive only a switch, which symbolizes punishment for their bad deeds. 
Santa Claus - Germans do not really have Santa Claus but rather the Weihnachtsmann (literally, "the Christmas man"), who is a direct descendent of Saint Nicholas. Or depending on the region in Germany, the Christkind (Christ child) comes and leaves gits for the children to open on December 24th in Germany. The Weihnachtsmann, much like Santa Claus, is depicted as a jolly old man with a long white beard in a red fur suit, with a sack of presents. The difference in Germany is that he does not arrive through the chimney, but rather slips in and out just long enough to leave the gifts, usually before children can catch a glimpse of him. 

Christmas Lights - Germans tend to be more conservative with energy and therefore not many people put up Christmas lights. If they do it might be one string of lights in a window or a small reindeer light statute in their yard or on top of their house. Occasionally you'll see a few lights on someones bushes or in a tree, but from our experiences this is rare. 

Commercialism and Christmas - Christmas in Germany is not as commercialized as it is in the States. Gift giving is much smaller and there are not nearly the advertisements for toys and gifts as one sees in the States. 

Two Christmas Days - Both December 25 and 26 are legal holidays in Germany and are known as the First and Second Christmas Day respectively. What originally started out as a church celebration of Christ's birth has gradually become a family celebration. Businesses are closed, and time is spent visiting with extended family. Goose is the traditional fare on the First Christmas Day, or perhaps rabbit or a roast. These are accompanied by traditional German fare such as apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage, and potato dumplings. The second Christmas day is usually a quieter time, a day for peaceful contemplation.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

German Christmas Market

It's the Christmas season and in Germany that means there are lots of Christmas Markets. A week ago we visited the Christmas market in Heidelberg. German Christmas Markets are a pretty big deal here. It is basically a big festival with lots of booths of handmade gifts such as ornaments, soaps, hats, scarfs, foods, candles, etc. They also have a few rides for the kids such as merry-go-rounds, and a few other things. Sometimes there is even an ice skating rink. There are a lot of booths with food and drinks, including the famous Gluewein.

I was able to eat my favorite German festival food, a Kartoffelpuffer mit Knobisosse. It's basically a potato pancake with onion sauce and is so good! So far we have only seen them during this time of year at the Christmas markets.

I also tried Gluewein for the first time. Gluewein is a specialty wine only served this time of year.  I rarely drink alcohol and this was the second time I tried wine since having my baby, so it was something I was kind of looking forward to. I was not able to drink it last year because I was pregnant. It's a seasonal warm wine that is served during the Christmas season. When I ordered my mug of wine the lady told me it was happy hour (yes, the Germans stole this from the Americans) and that I got a free shot of liquor. I looked at her and asked, "Hat der Wein Alkohol nicht?" I was confirming that it already had alcohol in it. She told me in English, "yes, but Germans add shots of liquor. That's how Germans drink Gluewein." I was kind of shocked but kind of not having lived in Germany for almost 1.5 years. So I told her I'd try it with a shot of rum since that is the only liquor I recognized. When I tried it I was disappointed. I thought it was terrible, probably because it was hot wine with a shot of rum and tasted a lot like medicine. Either way, I only had two sips. I'm glad I didn't miss much last year. At least the Kartoffelpuffer was still good.

My husband ordered sausage and we shared some Heisse Maronen (roasted chestnuts). We love roasted chestnuts and had them the first time this year while we were in France.

Here are a few pictures of the Christmas Market.

Roasted chestnuts

Guy making Kartoffelpuffer
Kartoffelpufferand Gluewein
Candy booth
Retail booth

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas tree salesman

Today while I was making lunch, a salesman came to my door selling Christmas trees. He looked in my house and saw my tree in our living room and said he saw that I already had one and started to walk away. I quickly asked him how much they were for future reference and he said they start at 15 Euros. It is amazing how many sales people come to our house. I thought it was funny and ran upstairs and took a took a picture of his truck from our bathroom window. I love this time of year and the randomness that happens in Germany.

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