REFLECTING ON CHRISTMAS IN GERMANY
Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you had wonderful holidays and enjoyed good food and company! I just got back a few days ago from my vacation in Germany. While it was amazing to see many friends and family after more than three years, I am so happy to be surrounded by sunshine again.
Let me tell you, from the 16 days I was in my homeland, at least 14 of them were covered by grey clouds. At least my mood was full of sunshine as I was excited to relax and also spend some great quality time with people that are very close to me. And even though I keep saying that I don’t see myself living in Germany again, it is always hard leaving family and friends behind when it’s time to go back home.
What I do love about Germany is how much the holidays are being cherished. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Thanksgiving, 4th of July and all the other American traditions, but the Germans take more time to celebrate. Christmas, for example, is a three-day holiday, which gives people enough time to relax and be with family.
This year, my parents and I made our way from the central town of Dusseldorf (located northwest of Germany) to my sister’s place in the Sauerland, which is about a two-hour drive east. My sister and her family live in such a peaceful small town surrounded by mountains, and I was very excited to enjoy some downtime while being out there.
In contrast to the United States, Christmas Eve is the day where the presents are being opened. That day, our family tradition consists of eating fondue followed by opening gifts. If the night is still young after that, we might play a board game or two. This past year though, we finished dinner so late that we skipped the game part and undertook it the next day.
The next day, which is called Erster Weihnachtstag in Germany, I went out for a nice long walk with one of my friends. It was quite romantic walking along the mountains, rivers, and lakes while the streets were mostly quiet. When I came back to my sister’s house, it was almost time for dinner, which consisted of a traditional German Christmas meal: Gänsebraten mit Klößen und Rotkohl (Roasted goose with dumplings and red cabbage).
I thankfully passed up on the roasted goose but indulged in the dumplings and red cabbage. After we were all finished, we finally caught up with our Christmas Eve tradition and played some fierce rounds of board games.
On the third day of Christmas or, as the Germans call it, Zweiter Weihnachtstag, we decided to undertake something not so traditional: we went shopping. I was very surprised that the stores were open on this Holiday, but it was nice to change up the scenery for a bit. A few hours later and many Euros lighter, we made our way back to the house, where it was back to game time.
The next day, things slightly went back to the everyday routine for my sister’s family, and so we trekked back to Dusseldorf. But even the official holiday of Christmas was over, I was still surrounded by Christmas during the following days. That same afternoon my parents and I went to the city of Duisburg to do some more shopping (as if the day before wasn’t enough, haha), and it just so happened that the Christmas market was still up and running.
Back in the day, the markets used to close right before Christmas Eve, but apparently, times have changed and so we still got to enjoy crepes and mulled wine the day after the festivities.
The Christmas spirit was even still present the following Saturday when I visited a friend in Dortmund and we were stunned to witness the world’s tallest Christmas tree, which is roughly 45 meters (about 147 feet) high.
So I definitely did have quite the fair share of Christmas this past year, and while it was amazing, I am ready for Spring and warmer days. I hope you all are going to have an amazing 2019 and wish you all the best!
Images: Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Anne-Kathrin Schulte is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes about her personal experience of the American Dream as well as about 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.