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Helau and Alaaf – Carnival Tradition in Germany

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HELAU AND ALAAF – CARNIVAL TRADITION IN GERMANY

This upcoming Thursday, certain cities in Germany, including my hometown Dusseldorf, are going to be crowded with thousands of people – adults as well as children – dressed up in costumes. Welcome to the yearly tradition of Carnival.  For those of you who have never heard of this festivity before, I would describe it as a mixture of Halloween (minus the scary costumes) plus Mardi Gras.

Due to the fact that I grew up in a so-called Carnival central city, I basically was born into the tradition.  Today I can gladly say that I don’t miss it one bit, but back when I was living in Europe I did feel obligated to participate.  So what does Carnival consist of?

This time of the year, which is also named the 5th season, actually starts in November on 11-11 at 11:11 a.m., but the peak of the tradition happens around late February/ beginning of March on a Thursday.  That day called “Altweiber” (old women), it is common at work for women to cut off the men’s ties with scissors and then celebrate on the streets and at bars till late at night.

The highlight of the Carnival celebration is held on Monday with the Rose Monday parades, which are very popular in the cities of Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Mainz.  The 5th season usually ends that following Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday.

To sum it up, Carnival is one of the biggest events celebrated in Germany with parades, costume balls, and street parties.  There are two popular cries that you would be hearing a lot during this time: Helau in Dusseldorf and Mainz, and Alaaf in Cologne, Bonn, and Aachen.

I personally enjoyed this celebration more when I was a little kid in kindergarten and elementary school.  I mean, what kid doesn’t like to dress up.  My favorite costume of all time used to be a cat.  Cats were my favorite animal back then, so luckily for my parents they could recycle my costume every year and didn’t have to get a new one.

Being an adult, I never found it too appealing to put on a costume and get drunk on the streets, even though I participated a couple times.

What changed my perception a little bit was when I actually joined a show dance group that performed during masquerade balls.  I received this opportunity when I was living with my sister in a very small town in the mountains.

A friend of a friend happened to be one of the dancers, and since I loved dancing and had been doing it throughout my entire life, I saw the chance to become part of the group through that connection since they were in need of an additional performer.

For two years I was a member of this group.  And what can I say, I loved it.  I loved rehearsing for the show, performing on stage, and participating in tournaments.  But I still wasn’t too fond about everything else that included Carnival.

Once it was clear that I would be moving to the United Stands, I obviously had to end my time with this group.  It was a fun two years, but I am not missing it much nowadays.  But for everyone else who is a great fan of Carnival, have fun out there these next couple of days!

Image: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on 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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New Year, New Career?

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NEW YEAR, NEW CAREER?

To say life has been a rollercoaster lately would be a total understatement.  These last couple months have been very challenging, and I needed to take a break from writing for a bit, even though I claim it is a kind of therapy for me.  But, as we all know, life happens, and we do have to prioritize certain things.

I usually start to slow down during the winter months for a bit, not being able to be as active as during spring or summer. Piled on top of this was my career situation.  I did start an internship in August, which I unfortunately had to terminate in November.  I had such a great time at Tricoast Worldwide, and it really wasn’t easy to leave.  I learned so much and had wonderful coworkers who made work feel like fun.  I loved the family environment so much more than working for big corporations like I did before.

But, as another saying tells, if one door closes, another one opens, which I did not see at first.  As not many of you might know, I do work as an independent contractor for an app that provides dog walking, boarding, and sitting.  I started doing this job on the side when I was still at Tricoast, but it became my full-time position once I quit.  I am a huge dog lover and have to confess that I was actually a little excited, yet also scared, to take on this career shift.

I personally rather am with animals than sitting at a desk all day, staring at a computer screen.  I also wasn’t ready to start writing applications for PR jobs again, after it took so much effort to eventually land an unpaid position- yeah, no thanks.  I told myself to take it easy over the holidays, and once New Year’s hit, I would feel refreshed and ready to give applying another go.

But you know what? It didn’t happen like that.  Yes, I did take it easy over the holidays and got some much needed rest.  But I wasn’t feeling refreshed and ready to write applications.  All I wanted was to work with dogs.  I know that probably sounds ridiculous to many people, especially in expensive California.

But I am happy.  I am truly happy to have a job that doesn’t feel like a job to me.  It never feels like work for me, and every day is different.  This, I believe, is what your dream job has to feel like.  And, since I have put a couple of these in this post already, here is another smart saying by Mark Twain that sums it up perfectly: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I do am aware that I will not be able to perform this job forever.  At the end of each day, I can always feel every muscle in my legs from being on my feet all day.  Also, there are no benefits, and I have to work rain or shine in order to make ends meet. But I see this position as my ground base.

I would love to be able to combine my degree in communications with working with animals at some point.  But I am not stressing out about it at the moment.  I rather enjoy what I do, be able to save up some fundamentals, and then start taking the next step of the career ladder. And also find the time to write more again.

Image: pixabay.com
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Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on 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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Frohe Weihnacht – Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays!

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Thank You for a Wonderful 2016!

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, Happy Holidays!

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to thank all our readers and friends for their support throughout this year and for being an important part of our CaliforniaGermans family.

Have a wonderful Christmas and may your 2017 be filled with joy, health, prosperity and peace!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

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Berlin – Our thoughts are with you!

 

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This summer we had just returned from Munich when we witnessed in agony the events unfold in the Munich shooting rampage close to the Olympic village. Desperately we were trying to get a hold of all our family and friends over there making sure that they were safe. Munich and with it all Germany felt under attack. As it turned out the tragic event hadn’t been a terror attack after all, but the Germans’ ‘heile Welt‘ (sheltered/perfect world) did not feel that ‘heil‘ anymore. We learned that despite all precautions (Germany was on high alert) we, Germany, was still vulnerable after all.

This week on December 19th, 2016, a truck ploughed in the evening hours through a crowd of people at a Christmas market taking down wooden stalls and Christmas trees. Twelve people died and fifty people are injured.

This time it was real!  Berlin had been under attack by a terrorist.

When asked, many Berliners despite still in shock over this tragedy, mention that this was just a matter of time. “We all were aware that something could happen anytime…” And, as we have learned this year, this is something that can happen anywhere in Europe and the world for that matter.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all, who have lost family and friends in Berlin’s terrible tragedy of this week!

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Recent Updates  and Voices:

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/world/europe/a-berlin-square-where-the-prewar-postwar-and-modern-eras-coexist.html?emc=edit_tnt_20161220&nlid=60847579&tntemail0=y

Süddeutsche:  “Deutschland ist nicht im Krieg”

Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/attack-in-berlin-anis-amri-the-suspected-perpetrator-in-berlin-a-1127085.html

Süddeutsche – Internationale Pressestimmen:   http://www.sueddeutsche.de/medien/presseschau-zum-anschlag-in-berlin-deutschland-und-europa-sind-zu-fettleibig-um-den-weckruf-zu-hoeren-1.3304386 

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Weihnachtsbäckerei – Part 5: Butterplätzchen

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Butterplätzchen – Butter Cookies

A classic in German Christmas baking is the Butterplätzchen (butter cookie). It’s a favorite for baking with children. They love using cookie cutters in all kinds of shapes to make these most classic Christmas cookie of all and decorate them later. The difference between American and German Christmas butter cookies might not only be the recipe but also the size. Usually the German variation is thinner and much smaller in size than its US counterpart.

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 250 g – flour
  • 200g – butter
  • 100g – Baker’s sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp – rum
  • grated skin of one lemon

Ingredients for the decoration:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • for decorating: chocolate sprinkles, colored sugar sprinkles or pearls, smarties , coarse sugar, etc.

Prepare a shortcrust pastry ( Knetteig) by sifting the flour on a board, adding the sugar and the butter cut in little flakes on top. Make a little depression in the middle of the heap of the flour mixture and add the egg yolk, rum and grated lemon.

Blend the ingredients by first chopping them with a large knife, then kneading them to a smooth dough with your hands.

Form a big round ball out of the dough, wrap it in parchment paper and let it rest for about 30 min in the refrigerator.

Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to about 3mm weihnachtsbackereibutterkekspixabaythin. Cut out different forms with your cookie cutters. Place the various cookie shapes on a lined baking sheet, and bake them for about 356-392 Fahrenheit in the pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes. They should look golden brown.

Before you start decorating your cookies, place the cookies on a cooling rack. Then whisk the egg yolk used for decorating with the 1 tbsp milk and brush the cookies with a thin layer. Decorate them with chocolate sprinkles, colored sugar pearls or coarse sugar.

…and you are ready to enjoy one of the most traditional German Christmas Cookies!

Happy Forth Sunday of Advent!

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Let us know your favorite German Christmas Cookie Recipe and send it to CaliforniaGermans(at)gmail.com !

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com


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