art, culture, photo-of-the-day, photography

Lens-Artists Photo Challange 128: “And Here Comes the Holiday Season…”

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.

 

a woodcarving crib

 

some Christmas cookies

 

Advent wreath

 

a home-made Advent calendar in our kitchen

 

a felt crib

 

a classical Christmas tree with the gifts for the kids under the tree

 

a detail of the Christmas tree (no wax candles anymore for security reasons)

 

a booth at the Christmas market

 

another booth at the Christmas market

 

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!!

Take care!

culture, photography, seasons, world

Cultural notes: The Christmas Game

 

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noël!

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

Buon Natale!

Shinnen omedeto!

Feliz Navidad!

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.

 

 

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, 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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!