Category Archives: German Traditions

3 Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve German Style – It’s ‘Silvester’!

Three Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve German Style 

1 – FIREWORKS 

What 4th of July is for the American that’s New Year’s Eve or ‘Silvester’ for the German – at least, measured by the number of fireworks that go into the air that night. And that means fireworks galore! Every family is sure to sport some kind of firework and many have fireworks that would be called illegal in California, like skyrockets. (illegal fireworks in California include all that “…go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner”) In Germany, they are allowed. Unfortunately every year the press reports incidents of severe accidents because of them. 

2 – BLEIGIESSEN / Lead Pouring

This is a most favorite custom that lets the Germans play fortune teller on New Year’s Eve. Originally, small chunks of lead are melted in a spoon over the flame of a candle. As soon as the lead is liquid you pour the molten lead into a bowl of cold water where the lead will take on various shapes. These ’frozen” shapes will be interpreted to tell a person’s fate for the upcoming new year. As you can imagine this makes for a great topic of conversation.  One can buy lead pouring kits for this particular custom but many families use also wax instead of lead since it is safer.

3 – “DINNER FOR ONE” –

Now, this is a very special tradition for Germans. A tradition that literally doesn’t sound German at all! But it’s one, that is not to be missed and in fact, it is all over the TV channels all night long. We are talking about “Dinner for One” which is actually a comedy sketch in English! Yet, Germans can’t get enough of this 18-minute sketch and love watching it during every new year’s eve celebration. We have it posted for you right below:

“Same procedure as every year!”

We wish everyone a Happy New Year! –

Wir wünschen einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!


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Xmas Baking Recipe #4 – Gingerbread ‘Leicht Gemacht’

It’s not Christmas without Gingerbread Cookies!

As a child, I loved using my little cookie cutter forms and produce a variety of differently shaped butter cookies, which I later decorated wildly.  But as much as I enjoyed making butter cookies, I really, really loved to eat Lebkuchen! In fact, I couldn’t get enough of them. My favorite was the Elisenlebkuchen, made by my aunt from a family recipe, which was quite elaborate and required not only ample time but also lots of attention.

On a mission to find a recipe that would combine the easiness of a butter cookie recipe but encapsulate a flavor reminiscent of my cherished Lebkuchen in the final product, I came across this delectable and easy-to-make recipe for gingerbread cookies. And, the fun thing is…I can use all my cookie cutter forms with this kind of dough as well. Bingo!

Dive into our last Christmas cookie recipe for this holiday season!

Bon Appétit!

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INGREDIENTS:

70g  Sugar

180g  Honey

1 Egg Yolk

1 Pinch of Salt

1 tsp  Cinnamon

1 tsp  Candied Orange Peel (orangeat)

5 tbsp  Water

375g  Flour

1 tsp  Baking Powder

PROCEDURE:

Step #1 – First put the sugar and the honey in a pot and heat it up until it turns into a creamy mixture (don’t cook!). Put aside and let cool down. Preheat the oven to 356 Fahrenheit.

Step #2 – Add egg yolk, cinnamon, salt, and water to the mixture and mix well. Put flour and baking powder into a separate mixing bowl and add the honey mixture to it. Blend well. Cover the mixing bowl and let the batter rest for 24 hours.

Step #3 – Roll out the dough and cut out cookies in a gingerbread man shape for example. But any shape works fine. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit (top and bottom heat) for 11 minutes. Sugarcoat or decorate with icing or sprinkles.

Step #4 – Enjoy as a savory Christmas treat with friends and family, or use as a special decoration on your Christmas tree!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Image: Pixabay.com


 

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Xmas Baking Recipe #3: Bad Ischl Jelly Rings à la Dieter Kermas

JELLY RINGS FROM BAD ISCHL – The No-Eggs Xmas Cookie

In our Christmas Cookie Baking Series, we share today one of Dieter Kermas’ favorite ‘Weihnachtsplätzchen’ that he has baked for years! It’s a straightforward recipe that doesn’t need any eggs.

The cookies make for a beautiful looking and deliciously tasting Christmas treat. In fact, this cookie and some with slight variations (different jams & jellies) belong to the traditional staple of Christmas cookies in Germany and shouldn’t miss on any Christmas cookie platter. A variation of this cookie is called ‘Spitzbuben’, a cookie that looks similar but sometimes incorporates an egg in its cookie batter.

Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

300g   Flour

100g almond flour

185g powdered sugar

2 packets of vanilla sugar

1 pinch of salt

225g Butter

some flour to roll out the dough

75g raspberry jelly

PROCEDURE:

Step #1 – For the dough, mix the flour with the almond flour and the 125g powdered sugar.

Step #2 – Make a well in the middle. Add the Vanilla sugar and the pinch of salt to it.

Step #3 – Spread the butter in little flakes around it. Quickly prepare to a smooth batter. Cover and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Step #4 – On a lightly floured work surface  roll out the dough about 3mm thick. Cut out round cookies with a diameter of 6cm. Turn half of the cookie batch into circles by cutting out a hole of about 2cm in the middle.

Step #5 – Put all on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes at 392 Fahrenheit.

Step #6 – Once baked, remove the circles with the holes from the baking sheet and dip them still warm in a mixture of powdered sugar and the rest of the vanilla sugar.

Step #7 – Cover the full round cookies with the raspberry jelly and place the powder sugared circles on top of it.

Tastes delicious with a hot cup of coffee, hot chocolate or spiced tea!

Merry Christmas!

Image: Pixabay.com

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Dieter Kermas, CaliforniaGermans Author and a true Berliner, turned to writing after he retired from his profession as an engineer. Family and friends urged him to document his many experiences during his childhood in wartime Germany. This made for a collection of various essays which have been published here at CaliforniaGermans. (You can find the stories here on CaliforniaGermans.com by putting “Dieter Kermas” into the Search Box.) Apart from his childhood memories, he is also sharing some of his short stories and poems on CaliforniaGermans. Dieter Kermas, who loves to write, has published his first novel “Kolja. Liebe im Feindesland” in 2016, available at Amazon. Some of his work has been included in anthologies.

To get in touch with Dieter Kermas, please send an email with subject line “Dieter Kermas” to californiagermans@gmail.com
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Xmas Baking Recipe: Peanut Butter Blossoms à la Anne-Kathrin

 

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

Growing up, baking cookies for Christmas was an established tradition by my grandmother and me. We used to bake a specific kind of sugar cookies and then decorate them with fun stuff like edible glitter and chocolate lentils. When I was older, the tradition continued with friends. During the month of December, a couple of my girlfriends and I would meet at one of our homes and bake the afternoon away, making about 3-4 batches of our favorite cookies.

Nowadays, I am still an avid cookie eater during the Holidays, but I have been researching some healthier options.  I still love to indulge and don’t believe in depriving myself of anything I like, but I do prefer to have a healthier alternative here and there. So today I’d like to share a recipe that I discovered from Tone It Up, a fitness community for women who I have been a part of for several years now.

The recipe doesn’t require many ingredients and is quickly made, two things I am a big advocate for as I personally don’t enjoy standing in the kitchen for hours and hours.

Happy Baking!

LIST OF INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Unsweetened Creamy Peanut Butter

2 Scoops Vanilla Protein

¼ Cup Egg Whites

1 Tea Spoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

18 Chocolate Kisses

Coconut Oil Spray

 PROCEDURE:

STEP #1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

STEP #2: Combine all ingredients, except the chocolate kisses, in a large bowl and stir.

STEP #3: Form one tablespoon sized balls and put them on a cookie sheet greased with coconut oil.

STEP #4: Bake the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes. Once you removed the cookies from the oven and let them cool for a couple minutes, press one chocolate kiss onto each cookie.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Image: Anne-Kathrin Schulte

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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes about her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany, she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

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Celebrating Saint Nicholas Day. How did you behave all year?

Today is Saint Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus). How did you behave all year? He will know!

Perhaps you were good and could start out your day already with a full boot full of treats. Or you are still waiting until tonight when Saint Nicholas himself comes by and pays you a visit.

Many German families celebrate this beloved tradition the way that they have their children put out a boot overnight from the 5th to the 6th of December so that Saint Nicholas could fill it with oranges, nuts, chocolates, and even small toys. This would, of course, happen only if the child had behaved well all year. Surprisingly, they always had!

In some families, like mine, Saint Nicholas would actually come by in the evening of the 6th of December. Every year it was a big affair. We had friends with their children over to await the honored guest. O my, was I nervous as a young child!

Around 6 pm we would hear little bells and heavy footsteps crunching through the snow towards our patio door looking out onto the black pitch garden. And there he suddenly was! Standing in front of our patio glass door knocking with his white-gloved hand. Saint Nicholas!

All of us kids would huddle together, while my dad would open the door and beckon the honored guest in. Every year we were awed just the same!

Saint Nicholas and his Golden Book of Truth

Saint Nicholas entered our living room. Dressed in a bishop’s robe with a red cape and a Mitra he had a heavy burlap sacket over one shoulder and a huge golden book clasped underneath his other arm that was also holding a golden staff.  After we all had greeted him he took a quick glance at the half circle of children asking one of us to come forward to hold his precious crozier. We were all excitedly terrified and intimidated at what to expect next.

He sighed and slowly leafed through his golden book when suddenly stopping at one page, he announced a name and looked at us children with questioning eyes. The one, who had been named, timidly stepped forward and Saint Nicholas looked at him or her with a friendly look and exclaimed in a deep voice: “Now, let’s see what my little angels have written about you over the past year.”

He started reading out of his big golden book all, that he or she had achieved over the year, and what the parents were so proud of. Saint Nicholas would approve with little nods here and there or even utter some words of admiration.

With gleaming faces, we listened to his every word wishing just that the end would not be too embarrassing since everyone else was listening. We were aware that most likely, not everything had been perfect over the year and knew that Saint Nicholas would close by mentioning something we could thrive for and do better in the following year.

Every child had finally been addressed and received a little burlap sacket filled with treats, that Saint Nicholas retrieved from his big one. But this wasn’t the end. No!

Now it was time for entertainment! The parents would ask Saint Nicholas to take a seat and enjoy a glass of red wine while he would listen to our, the children’s presentations. Relieved, we children moved to this more relaxed part and recited our poems, played holiday music on our flutes and the piano.

After a short social time with Saint Nicholas, we finally accompanied him back out to the garden where he vanished into the dark, leaving us with the noise of the crunching footsteps in the snow and the jingling of bells in the air.

Exhilarated we ran back inside the house to indulge in unpacking our presents at last.

 

Image: Title image ©CaliforniaGermans , Pixabay.com