Yep! Holiday season. A strange holiday season at the end of a strange year. I know, this year is strange for all of us, all over the world. Many families in many countries looking back in anger because of a personal loss. Lots of fear for many people: will I get infected? Will a family member get infected? And when having symptoms, the fear changes to “I hope, it’s something else”. And after a confirmed infection, this changes again. Now the question is “will I survives and will I recuperate completely”. I guess I can understand these feelings as I got tested in June in Iceland and waiting for the result was not enjoyable. Earlier this week my wife got tested because of an infection. She (we) had to wait about 30 hours for getting the result. It turned out, the test was negative, but instead, she was diagnosed with a lung infection – also not good, but better as COVID19.
In a ‘normal’ year, December is the worst month of the year. Besides the necessary Christmas-related happenings, I have 13 birthdays during December in my closer family circle plus the close friends. 8 of them are still upcoming, including mine. So, it’s a lot of stress to get all the necessary visits and festivities coordinated. The other thing is, in general, I don’t like the early start of Christmas decorations and products in the supermarkets (really, is it necessary to start end of September selling this stuff????) and playing the same 5 or 6 Christmas songs for months in the shops (yes, Band-Aid, Wham and Mariah Carey are among them 😫). Similar situation, when turning the radio on. Call me Mr. Grinch, but I can’t stand this anymore. Ok, ok, I’m not that extreme as Mr. Grinch. I don’t hate Christmas at all and I don’t try to ruin it for others. But, I don’t like how we are showered with music, decorations, smells, and so on for such a long time each year and always the same kind of stuff. This has nothing in common with the idea of Christmas.
OK, this year is different. No driving to work and working from home instead saves me from hearing these songs over-and-over again in the car (I’d need to commute 2 hours per day). I also try to avoid entering a shop as I’m one of those with a high risk for a dramatic course. Christmas shopping is done either online or I delegated it. Even all the birthday parties are skipped and there no necessity to attend an Advent or Christmas celebration in the office, society, or church. Staying home a lot. I even participated in my first ever virtual Christmas party organized by a lady from my department. It was nice and entertaining. Among other things, she had a Christmas-related quiz organized: 20 questions around Christmas. I had 10 correct answers (it would have been 12 if I would have followed my first idea and not corrected) and in the end, I ranked #13 out of 96. I guess that’s quite good despite the questions were sometimes very American and British. You could ask me, are there no happy feelings bound to Christmas? Sure, there are some 🙂
Here, we have a saying: Die Dosis macht das Gift (the dose makes the poison). Another one is “putting sugar in the honey”.
So, the grouching hour is over, Christmas season is around the corner. Here are a couple of Christmas related images from the past years. Btw. I want to tell you the greatest and most valuable Christmas present ever that I got: my daughter, my first child, was born the night before Christmas (Dec 23rd at about 22:00h). She really has Christmas spices in her blood! During December she’s always wearing a Santa Clause-like jelly bag cap either in red or in dark-blue with tons of little stars. But, both are having a white edge and pompon. Even her son has such a hat (he only has a red one). So, it’s quite funny to see them walking along the street like two of the dwarfs searching for Snowwhite.
In the past, I wrote a small series of posts on how Christmas and Advent look like here in Germany. Maybe your interested and check them out. They are all tagged with “Advent” and have “Cultural notes” in the subject.
So, thank you Ann-Christine for this wonderful theme, and forgive me for my grouching 😊
I wish you and your beloved a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2021!!
and for all the other people, too, everywhere on the world, regardless where you are and which your native language is: have a merry and peaceful Christmas.
Christmas is the time of giving gifts to (and receiving from) parents, partners, kids and friends. When all the gifts are laying below the Christmas tree, the kids usually attack their pile and unwrap their gifts in the shortest time, much faster, than you were able to warp them with beautiful paper and decorate them with bows and stickers. When having more than one kid, they all do it at the same time. And you, as the giver, can’t notice, if they are happy about the gift nor you can notice any reaction.
To calm down this chaos, we had an idea some years ago. Instead of giving each kid a pile of gifts to unwrap, we put them all on one single pile and attach a little batch with the name of the recipient. (You can certainly still put them on separate piles for a better overview). On the table we set up a game board (the first version was made of LEGO many years ago) with ~28 (8 + 6 + 8 + 6) fields. A figurine represents each family member(i.e. an angle, a toy-car, an anima or a small bell). Rolling a dice helps to move the figurines forward: one field for each dot shown on the upper side of the dice. Some of the fields have special meanings.
Our board has these icons on the fields:
- starting point = during the game an ordinary field with no special meaning
- at least one pausing point per side, represented by a hedgehog, a snail or a snowman (pausing for one round)
- roll the dice a second time, represented by a fox (1 – 2 times per side)
- moving 3 fields backward, represented by a hare or a rabbit (once per side)
- moving 3 fields forward, represented by a snow-ball, a bird or a squirrel (once per side)
- activity field represented by an owl (1 or 2 times per side)
- question field represented by a question mark (once per side)
- a Christmas tree is for fetching a gift from the pile and hand it over to the person named on the batch. Get a parcel without checking the name first. Take it, read the name on the batch and hand is over! (1 or 2 times per side).
The next person is allowed to roll the dice, not before the gift is completely unwrapped and everyone had the opportunity to see it.
The youngest kid is allowed to start with rolling the dice (or the oldest person or the one which first letter of the name cast first in the alphabet or the mother or the one with the highest number during a pre-round). Be creative!
The activity cards are put in two special fields in the inner part of the board with the text side turned down. They are parted in two piles: one for the question mark (more general questions = fact check) and one for the activity icon (more personal questions). The person which figurine arrives on an activity field gets a card from the pile, turns it around and reads it loud. Than, he or she has to follow the order on the card. Here are a few examples:
- sing a Christmas song (not mentioned earlier)
- play a Christmas song on your guitar, ukulele, violin, flute, … (not mentioned earlier)
- completing a given verse of a traditional Christmas song
- name a Christmas song containing a given lyrics line
- name 5 Christmas pop songs (not mentioned earlier)
- name 5 traditional Christmas songs (not mentioned earlier)
- recite a Christmas poem (not mentioned earlier)
- get someone a gift from the pile (in addition to the “Christmas tree” fields)
- name 5 Christmas movies (not mentioned earlier)
- remove all the paper from the ground and bring it to the correct bin
- read loud the Christmas Story from the Bible
- answer questions about the Christmas story
- your most favorite / worst Christmas gift ever
- ………. (this is to be filled by your own creativity)
When all activity cards are used, mix them and put them on their place again. Or, put each used card below the pile.
This way, everyone is able to see, what that person got and how she enjoys the gift. No-one is ready unpacking her pile of gifts too quickly and can pay each giver the necessary respect. It’s a family event instead of a single experience.
As you can see, the rules are very simple. Even a pre-school kid is able to follow the game. It’s fun, playing together and see the joy in each others eyes.
This is a good habit for our family, and maybe for you, too. Include the kids when preparing the game board and setting up the rules. Write the rules on the board. Decorate the board and the cards with Christmas related icons. Let each kid bring his or her favorite small figurine as her meeple.
We usually need about 1,5 to 2 hours for the game and the unpacking when having 5 player. It’s a lot of fun and very relaxing.
Now, you have 12 months to create you own game. I’d love the see your results. You can put your response in the comments below or create a blogpost on your own and leave me a back-ping.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.