culture, photography, seasons, world

Cultural notes: Advent wreath

The time surrounding the 4 Sundays before Christmas are called Advent, meaning preparation, pleasant anticipation and expectation.

Back in the first half of the 19th century a protestant pastor got the idea to visualize these 4 Sundays until Christmas each with a candle mounted on a wreath made of fir twigs. Each Advent Sunday one of these candles is inflamed, while the candles of the past Sundays are still burning. So, you have one candle burning on the first Advent, two candles on the second Advent, three on the Third and all four candles on the fourth Advent. The christmas tree won’t be erected before Christmas Eve on December 24th (although many families do this earlier nowadays and don’t wait until December 24th).

Over the next years the idea spread over Germany and became about 100 years later common even in catholic regions. Nowadays you can find Advent Wreath in nearly every home, church and even many shops.

It’s also quite common, to put a few pine twigs with some decorations in the homes. The traditional colors of this time are green, red and yellow.

The green stands for live and hope, even in this dark and unfriendly time, when nature seems dead. Only firs and pines are green in this time of the year, so they are also a symbol. The burning candles are a symbol for Jesus, the light of the world. The other parts, like the color of the candles, the further decoration or the order for the inflammation of the candles are part of regional different rules. The shape of the wreath stands for eternity, because a ring has no end.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Advent time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Have a great Advent time!

 

culture, photography, seasons, world

Cultural notes: Christmas market

Christmas markets have a long tradition here in Germany. The best known Christmas market is probably the “Christkindl’s Markt” in Nürnberg, Bavaria.

A Christmas market is not simply a modification of a regular farmers market. Other than a farmers market it opens at about 10 or 11 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. and instead of closing a noon, it stays open until about 8 p.m.

You can buy spices, fruits (during my childhood the Christmas market was the only source for buying oranges, mandarins and some other exotic fruits for the South). You can also buy candles and decoration stuff, but also some food to make you warm from the inside again or some alcoholic drinks like hot spices wine.

While the markets exist in the bigger cities from about mid November until December 23rd, they are set up only for the weekends in smaller cities. Sometimes even for only one day or one weekend. Even some farms set up Christmas markets. Often these farms grow Christmas trees and thus combine the Christmas tree sale with a small Christmas market to attract additional customers.

Have a great Advent time!

 

culture, food, photography, seasons, world

Cultural notes: Cookie time

Advent time is cookie time. In many private kitchens the oven has a hard time during the 4 weeks before Christmas. It’s time for baking Christmas cookies.

There are many receipts available for baking the special Christmas or Advent cookies. Every region has some specific specialities, while others are (nowadays) generally known in the whole country.

Have a great Advent time!

 

culture, photography, seasons, world

Cultural notes: Advent calendar

You know, Christmas is celebrated in December each year. This holiday is a memorial to the birth of Jesus from Nazareth and celebrated on December 25th in many countries. Because of his birth, his parents got gifts from the wise men coming to praise him. In that tradition, we also give gifts for Christmas to our beloved family members and maybe some tight friends.

Especially the kids are looking forward and are eager to know about the gifts they will get. To ease this waiting period, here in Germany, the kids (and also some adults) get an Advent calendar to shorten this waiting period.

Three years ago, I already wrote about Advent calendars and their history. So, jump back and have a look.

Have a great Advent time!

 

art, culture, food, people, photography, still life

Throwback Thursday: picking raisins

Here we have a German saying: someone is simply picking the raisins. Such a guy is called a raisin-picker. What does this mean?

Raisins are dried grapes and often used as an ingredient for baking cakes, torte or bread or while cooking food. Despite, they don’t have much liquid left after the drying process, they taste great. They are soft and sweet. Most people like them. But, because of the way they are produced, they are quite expensive and thus a valuable ingredient.

So, when we say, someone is picking the raisins, he or she is taking a lot of something good and does not leave enough for the others. In this context the ‘good’ not necessarily needs to be food. It could also be public holidays inside the vacation time. Or, when it comes to pay for a round, one always pay only the cheap drinks and leaves the expensive drinks to be paid by the others. Or doing the easy work while leaving the hard work to be done by the others. I guess, you got the idea.

Do you have a similar saying? Leave me a note in the comments.

This little guy is picking a raisin out from a Dresdner Christstollen (or shorter Dresdener Stollen), a typical German sweet, spiced bread. It’s made with a lot of butter, sugar, raisins, candied orange peel, candied citron peel, nuts, almonds, mild, rum and a lot more. Although, it’s known and made in many more parts of Germany, the Stollen from Dresden is best know.

Take care!

art, culture, history, nature, plants, seasons

St. Barbara

dsc_0969_wToday, we have the 2nd of Advent.

All days have a patron. And todays patron is a martyr called Barbara. She used to live in the 3rd century.

Here we have a tradition, of cutting of twigs from certain trees and put them inside the house. When doing so, they will bloom on Christmas. You can take twigs i.e. from cherry trees, apple trees, pear trees, plum trees or forsythia.

To bring them to bloom, they must have a frost first. Either, you cut them after having had a frost outside before December 4th, or you put them into your freezer for a night after having them cut of. Then, put them in warm water for a night (i.e. in your bathtub). So the buds feel can the spring. The next day, you have to to cut the twig diagonally above the cutting surface or tenderize it with a hammer. Put them in a vase and place it in a warm room. Refresh the water every three or four days. Spray them with water, if the air in the room is very dry. The twigs need some air moisture. Dry air makes the twigs shrivel.

For us, this is the first time we’re trying this.

Take care!

art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown has come to his end!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is December 24th, Christmas Eve.

Today I want to tell you a bit on Christmas and how it is celebrated here in Germany.

In case December 24th is a weekday from Monday to Saturday, it is a common working day. But, at about 2 p.m. all the shops close. Many offices, instead are already closed this day. So, the cities and shopping centers are crowded this morning. Many male shoppers are in the streets, those, who forgot to buy a suitable present for their wives.

Many women are also in the shops. They fetch the pre-ordered food: meat, bread or cakes. Butchers, bakeries and fishmongers open very early this day and often have a different counter for those people, who want to collect the usually pre-paid pre-orders.

When I was a child, the grannies went with their grand-kids to a theater or a cinema and watch a play or a movie for the kids to shorten the time until they get their presents for Christmas and, more important, to give the parents time, to prepare the living room with the Christmas tree and the gifts. Nowadays the TV took over the grannies’s role.

You might already got the point, here we don’t have Father Christmas or Santa Clause coming in the night from 24th to 25th. Here we celebrate Christmas in the evening of December 24th.

The next two days, which are holidays, are used for visiting the parents. One spouses parents on 25th and the other spouses parents on December 26th.

Visiting a service at a church is not that common anymore. Some churches start at 5 p.m. with their Christmas service others at 10 p.m. For many people visiting a Christmas service, is this the only time of the year entering a church for visiting the service.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

How about you. Maybe you write a bit about the Christmas traditions from where you live.

Take care!

art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown is on the home stretch!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is Sunday, December 20th. The 4th Advent.

Today I have another German tradition for you: the christmas tree.

The idea of setting up a christmas tree in the homes came also up in back in the 19th century and started to all the other countries. Although there are older documents describing similar habits, they weren’t common and had a slightly different idea.

Starting from the medieval ages December 24th was the feast day of Adam and Eve, the biblical root of all mankind. They lived in paradise and parts of the commemoration decoration were trees, leaves and apples. In Germany you won’t find any trees with their leaves in mid December, so people got the idea of taking conifers.

In the 19th century, when cultural setup in Germany changed and brought some wealth to more people because of the technical revolution during the 18th century, the people took the trees in their homes, decorated them with red balls to symbolize the apples, red bows to symbolize the blossoms and candles to symbolize the light.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Take care!

 

art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown is going further!

dsc_3080-ec_w

 

Today is Sunday, December 13th. The 3rd Advent.

Today I have another German tradition for you: the Christmas Market. The roots of this tradition go back to the 14th century. Since the early 20th century they are an inherent part of the pre-Christmas or Advent time.

I know, this tradition is on its way around the world and is already established in several cities in the UK and the US. Maybe also in other parts of the world, too. In case, you have similar markets in your region, please tell me a bit in the comment section below.

A Christmas market is held in many (if not nearly all) cities during Advent time. Smaller cities hold their Christmas market only for a weekend or a few days including one weekend. Others even start a few days before the first of Advent and last until December 23rd. And some cities have even more than one Christmas market, i.e. in several neighborhoods. Even some churches organize Christmas markets or important special places of excursion, like museums or castles.

But, what is a Christmas market? It’s a bit like a regular farmers market, but they offer Christmas related goods. So, you can usually buy Christmas decoration stuff including table-cloth and napkins, wooden toys, hand-made wood pieces from the region Erzgebirge, located between Germany and Czech Republic (a famous city here is Seiffen), spices, incense sticks, honey, candles and so on. When I was a child, there were stands offering exotic fruits, like bananas, pineapples, coconuts, oranges, mandarin oranges and of course apples, nuts and pears.

You can also buy some food. Usually local sports clubs or other social clubs sell some food to raise money for their work. They sell i.e. hot sweet chestnut, pea soup, green cabbage with cooked mettwurst (a smoked coarsely kind of sausage) or bratwurst. You can also buy some drinks. The most common drink on a Christmas market is hot, spiced wine (Gluehwein / Glühwein). Another important drink is glogg (Punsch).  All these foods and drinks are meant to keep you warm or give back some warmth, because it usually is cold in december.

Often these markets have an additional name, like these well-known Christmas markets here in Germany: Christkindels Markt in Nurnberg (Christkindel is Child Christ in the local dialect) , Striezelmarkt in Dresden (Striezel is a certain kind of bakery product), Printenmarkt in Aachen (Printe is also a certain kind of bakery product, specific to Aachen) or  Lebkuchenmarkt (Lebkuchen = ginger bread).

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Advent time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Take care!

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art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown is going on!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is Sunday, December 6th. The 2nd Advent.

Today I want to tell you a bit on another German tradition during Advent: the Adventskalender (Advent calendar).

It’s also invented back in the early 19th century in northern Germany. Is was invented to display the time until christmas for the kids. There were several kinds of these calendars:

– think of an empty crib and give a small piece of stray to the kid to put it in the crib as a picture to create a warm place in the cold world for the newborn child.

– take a card box, fold the sides to the back as a stand  and cut some windows in it. Don’t remove the windows, keep them as doors and close them again. On the back glue a translucent paper decorated with christmas symbols and print another christmas scene on the front. Now, the kid is allowed to open one door each day, enjoy the finding and put a candle behind the card box.

– think of a card box again, but this time it is a flat box, where you can find chocolate in. The chocolate is shaped to form christmas symbols.

– you can also find many companies offering their usual products  in the internet using an advents calendar (often for a reduced price for that one day) to stimulate buying mood of their customers.

Nowadays you can find many different brands selling advent calendars containing nearly everything, especially from the sweets industry. For kids they come with chocolate and toys. For adults they offer advent calendars with pralines, liquor, beer, jewels, and many, many more. It’s really a big business.

For many years we have our own style. We have a rope with small  (tiny) sacks where we put in one candy for each day. Most of the candies are chocolate, but we can choose them on our own according to our taste.

The photos below show such home-made advent calendars and the clock tower is a bought one containing sweets from a certain brand. The photos are not that good, because they are taken with a mobile – sorry 😦

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Advent time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Take care!

 

art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown is started!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is Sunday, November 29th.

In christian tradition Sundays are the most important day of the week, when all faithful people are supposed to go to church for attending the service. Last Sunday we have had Eternity Sunday as the last Sunday of the religious year. So, today is the first day of the religious year: The first of Advent (Sunday).

(btw. in another past post, I’ve written a bit more about the special holidays before Advent).

The time surrounding the 4 Sundays before Christmas are called Advent, meaning preparation, pleasant anticipation and expectation.

Back in the first half of the 19th century a protestant pastor got the idea to visualize these 4 Sundays until Christmas each with a candle mounted on a wreath made of fir twigs. Each Advent Sunday one of these candles is inflamed, while the candles of the past Sundays are still burning. So, you have one candle burning on the first Advent, two candles on the second Advent, three on the Third and all four candles on the fourth Advent. The christmas tree won’t be erected before Christmas Eve on December 24th (although many families do this earlier nowadays and don’t wait until December 24th).

Over the next years the idea spread over Germany and became about 100 years later common even in catholic regions. Nowadays you can find Advent Wreath in nearly every home, church and even many shops.

It’s also quite common, to put a few pine twigs with some decorations in the homes. The traditional colors of this time are green, red and yellow.

The green stands for live and hope, even in this dark and unfriendly time, when nature seems dead. Only firs and pines are green in this time of the year, so they are also a symbol. The burning candles are a symbol for Jesus, the light of the world. The other parts, like the color of the candles, the further decoration or the order for the inflammation of the candles are part of regional different rules. The shape of the wreath stands for eternity, because a ring has no end.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Advent time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

Take care!

art, culture, history, seasons, world

The countdown has come to his end!

dsc_3080-ec_wToday is December 24th, Christmas Eve.

Today I want to tell you a bit on Christmas and how it is celebrated here in Germany.

In case December 24th is a weekday from Monday to Saturday, it is a common working day. But, at about 2 p.m. all the shops close. Many offices, instead are already closed this day. So, the cities and shopping centers are crowded this morning. Many male shoppers are in the streets, those, who forgot to buy a suitable present for their wives.

Many women are also in the shops. They fetch the pre-ordered food: meat, bread or cakes. Butchers, bakeries and fishmongers open very early this day and often have a different counter for those people, who want to collect the usually pre-paid pre-orders.

When I was a child, the grannies went with their grand-kids to a theater or a cinema and watch a play or a movie for the kids to shorten the time until they get their presents for Christmas and, more important, to give the parents time, to prepare the living room with the Christmas tree and the gifts. Nowadays the TV took over the grannies’s role.

You might already got the point, here we don’t have Father Christmas or Santa Clause coming in the night from 24th to 25th. Here we celebrate Christmas in the evening of December 24th.

The next two days, which are holidays, are used for visiting the parents. One spouses parents on 25th and the other spouses parents on December 26th.

Visiting a service at a church is not that common anymore. Some churches start at 5 p.m. with their Christmas service others at 10 p.m. For many people visiting a Christmas service, is this the only time of the year entering a church for visiting the service.

So, I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas time wherever you are and whatever tradition, country, religions or ethical group you belong to.

How about you. Maybe you write a bit about the Christmas traditions from where you live.

Take care!