Germany does Christmas right.
I know that is a bold assertion, and being German I may be biased, but it just feels right. Even though I was born and raised in Canada, my parents maintained many of the traditions that they grew up with in Germany, passed them on their children and grandchildren. Erwin’s family celebrated a unique blend of Canadian (from his mom) and German (from his dad.)
In North America, we get steamrollered by the season long before anyone wants it to begin. In Germany the Christmas season officially begins with the opening of the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in early December. There are dozens of them throughout Berlin, probably thousands throughout Germany and the countries that border it. It is the place to buy exquisite handmade crafts and ornaments, or try the local seasonal delicacies, or just mix and mingle and people watch. Christmas markets are best seen at night. It causes the makeshift wooden stalls adorned with lights and garlands to look enchanted and adds to the magic of Christmas.
The smell of Christmas is a combination of incense from the Raüchermänner (an incense cone placed inside a wooden figure which billows out perfumed coils of smoke) and the peppery-cinnamon smell of Glühwein (mulled wine, a mug of which you can walk around freely with) mixed with the aroma of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) baking. Traditional treats include Marzipanstollen (Germany’s answer to fruitcake, and people actually like it), Gebranntemandeln (cinnamon toasted almonds), Dominosteine (bite sized squares layered with gingerbread, almond paste and currant jam, covered in chocolate, yummm my fav.) and of course goose for Christmas dinner instead of turkey.
No stockings are hung by the chimney with care, however, there still is hope that St. Nicholas soon will be there. Except…. his arrival is eagerly anticipated on Christmas Eve… after it gets dark out. He comes to the door and knocks asking to be let in. He enters with a sack slung over his shoulder and distributes gifts if you've been good…or nothing if you've been bad. Santa, or der Weihnachtesmann, even looks different here, less jolly old St. Nick and more old-world charm or even a little scary at times.
As for dreaming of a white Christmas…this year that’s probably all it will be, a dream. Although we've had some snow here it’s mostly gone or turned to icy slush. I’m ok with that, it just means will have to be careful as we walk to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) for Christmas Eve service, or take one last look around the sights of Christmas in Germany as a family.
Frohe Weihnachten from Sylvia and Erwin