In the past week, I had to adjust to the fact that Christmas is OVER, a week earlier than I had become accustomed to. I was used to our southern German world being shut down not just from the week of Christmas to New Year’s but also through the first week of January thanks to Three Kings. (Note: During my time writing for the German Way blog, the most Wiki-ed or Google-ed things I’ve had to look up are Catholic holidays and food.) I missed my older daughter’s first gymnastics class last Wednesday. Back in Aalen, there wouldn’t have been Turnen or any Musik Schule or anything like that scheduled.
This year, I missed the Adventszeit and the tradition of celebrating Christmas time for the whole month of December. And although Christmas decorations start being sold at Target the minute Halloween goes on clearance, that is not the same. I feel that Christmas is largely for consumerism here. Adventszeit is more oriented towards baking Weihnachtsplätzchen together (though I’ll concede that an American Christmas cookie exchange is an efficient and smart thing. I admire my friend Moni and my husband’s Tante Liane for baking at least 10 different kinds of cookies for their cookie bags/tins each year.) The point of a Christkindelmarkt in every town is not just to sell as many tschotchke to as many suckers as possible, but rather to provide a cozy space for people to drink their Glühwein together, for children to pet some farm animals and ride some rides and of course for us to find some sweet, handmade, wooden ornaments to share with our poor, plastic-invaded relatives back home.
And it’s nice that the start of the Christmas season in Germany is not just kicked off by the large Christmas tree in Macy’s, but rather by the presence of a wreath on the table with four candles. And with every Sunday leading to Christmas, we can light a candle and mark the season rather spiritually.
One trick I missed this year was foregoing stockings pre-Christmas for an Advent Calendar. Hosting Thanksgiving for my family derailed me from focusing on the Adventszeit preparation. I got smart though and used the post-Christmas clearance time to stock up on things for the next year. Again, luckily, my daughters are too young to call me out on my oversight.
And of course, the food. While I was never a goose lover (other than fois gras) and we enjoyed a lovely beef tenderloin with port sauce this Christmas, I would have rather had bought my piece of meat at my local butcher in Schwabenland rather than Costco. I also had a craving for raclette and woed that I had to leave my raclette grill in Germany. A newly made Swiss friend here tells me that her converter works brilliantly encouraging me to perhaps rescue my Tchibo-purchased prize from my sister-in-law’s cellar and lug it back over on our next visit.
Finally, it was the travel that I missed horribly again. If my husband ever took vacation time, we always went away. Northern Italy and the Italian Lakes was always a favorite destination. Otherwise, the Black Forest, Salzburg, a visit with close friends in Berlin, and pre-children, a drive to Paris or even London was in the realm of possibility. My consolation this year is that the weather probably would have scuppered any plans anyway, but I am readjusting my compass to point to our frontiers of Vegas, Cabo, Seattle and Maui. Times like these, I need to just stick an umbrella in my new drink and suck it up.
Frohes neues Jahr!