Tag Archives: Germany

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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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


Happy First of December! Countdown to Christmas has officially started!

The story of the Advent Calendar

Germans love Christmas. In fact, for Germans, it’s the most important holiday of the year!

Many traditions help us Germans prepare for and enjoy the Christmas season to the fullest, like Saint Nicholas Day on Dec 6th or the four Sundays of Advent, Christmas cookies and much more.

One tradition, however, stands out since it is equally loved by children and adults. The Advent Calendar!

Who doesn’t like a countdown to a highly anticipated event?

Apparently many don’t want to miss it. In places all around the world, one can now find these magic Advent Calendars that hide chocolates or little toys behind their secret doors. Even beer calendars are available or calendars filled with a variety of liquor filled chocolates. The possibilities seem endless…

In the old days, just a beautiful little picture behind a door would make kids happy. Today some Advent Calendars made it even online, published by companies that discovered it as another tool to engage customers.

The first Advent Calendar originated in Germany in 1904 when Gerhard Lang published a simple one as an insert in a newspaper in Stuttgart. It was a raving success! So Lang decided to print a new one every year. The designs became more and more elaborate from calendars that worked like a dial to calendar houses filled with chocolates to even a calendar in Braille for the blind.

But how did he get the idea to make a calendar that would count down the days to Christmas in the first place?

The idea of counting down to Christmas Eve already existed in different ways. Some families used to mark the days to Christmas with chalk on their doors, in other families children were putting one piece of hay every day into a manger in which Baby Jesus would be laid on Christmas Eve.

Gerhard Lange’s mother however handcrafted a calendar for his then little son that would be filled with a little meringue for every day in December leading up to Christmas Eve. That caused a lasting impression and, as an adult, inspired Gerhard Lange to expand on his mother’s idea of an Advent Calendar.

The ‘modern’ Advent Calendar was born and started out to conquer the world in all kinds of variations!

Wir wünschen eine schöne Vorweihnachtszeit!  

Happy Holiday Season!

Images: Pixabay.com


‘The Red Dress’ – Politics and Love in Germany Between the Wars

‘The Red Dress’ (Tania Wisbar)- Odyssey Theatre

‘The Red Dress’ – A World Premiere at The Odyssey Theatre In Los Angeles

Last weekend we were treated to a compelling and thought-provoking play at the Odyssey Theatre in LA. ‘The Red Dress’ by Tania Wisbar left us thinking and drawing parallels to the times we live in today.

‘The Red Dress’, a romantic drama set in Berlin, explores the intersection of politics and art during the years between the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism (1924-1936).

Alexandra Schiele (Laura Liguori) is a famous film actress from a prominent Jewish family who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck World War I vet, Franz Weitrek (J.B. Waterman). Franz is able to parlay his wife’s connections into work as a film director. But when his career takes off making Nazi propaganda films, his wife suddenly becomes a liability. Also in the cast are Rebecca Larsen, Shanti Reinhardt and Dylan Wittrock. Kiff Scholl directs.

The play intelligently taps into personal emotions and tensions caused by the political and social changes during the turbulent years before the rise of Nazism. It touches on the Eugenics Movement as well as some of the horrific actions the National Socialist Party of Hitler was known for. The excellent cast helps with the intensity of some scenes to create suspense throughout the whole play. The scenes spanning quite a few years in history are pulled together by sequences of historical movies and music from the particular eras.

The historical setting of ‘The Red Dress’ around the time of Hitler’s rising might imply a story we all know only too well. Yes, we have heard similar stories before, and, true, we learned about Hitler in school and watched this dark part of history on TV and the movies.

Yet, this play’s story is different! It explores and tries to make sense of why Germany lost its way. It’s different than anything you’ve read because experiencing the play unfold in front of your eyes in a small theatre setting, where one is intimately connected with the actors and their fate, brings about quite a different dimension to it all. The story, yet perhaps not entirely new, brings forth several new facets and lets us rediscover and see many ‘known’ facts from a different angle. Suddenly an ‘old’ story in many ways doesn’t feel outdated anymore.

In fact, the playwright Tania Wisbar leaves her audience with a message of urgency and relevance for today. One can’t shake off some of the lines just heard during the play. They seem to claim validation also in the period of history we are living in. Wisbar might want to remind us that something like we just saw on stage, could happen again if we are not vigilant enough.

Tania Wisbar, who was inspired by her own family history to write ‘The Red Dress’, succeeded in creating a very timely piece considering the uprising of recent nationalist right-wing movements all over the world.

Performances of ‘The Red Dress’, a world premiere presented by Argyle Road Productions, take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., from Oct. 28 through Nov. 19.

All tickets are $30 (reserved seating). The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, (323) 960-5521 or go to www.Plays411.com/reddress

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Photo Credit: Laura Liguori (Alexandra Schiele) and Dylan Wittrock (Officer Dieter Keller) – Photo by Ed Krieger                                                                        Image: Odyssey Theatre Los Angeles


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Halloween, Martin Luther and the Reformation

Today it’s all about Halloween. At least if you live here in the United States. In Germany, October  31 has been declared a national holiday this year, and that not because of Halloween.

Let’s talk about Martin Luther, the scholar, priest, and unifier.

Germany Celebrates 500 Years of The Reformation 

500 years ago, Martin Luther, a priest and scholar went to a church in Wittenberg to nail his 95 theses on to its doors. That act started a religious revolution and led to the formation of a new religious structure within Christendom: Protestantism. The Reformation was born.

Today Germany and churches around the globe commemorate Martin Luther and this significant event that brought about Protestantism and its many subgroups, like Lutheranism, Baptism, Anglicanism, Methodism and more.

But, What do We Really Know About Martin Luther?

Luther – The Priest who Started the Reformation

Martin Luther hadn’t planned for all this to happen. In fact, all he wanted was to find a way to draw attention to some teachings and practices of the Catholic Church he didn’t agree with. Despite attempts and requests to debate this with church leaders, they chose to ignore him. Luther had to find a different way to make himself heard and found a very effective one. He nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the castle church of Wittenberg. At least, so the legend goes. It is disputed if this actually happened, especially since Luther just wanted to change some grievances and not cause a religious revolution.

Luther – The Scholar, Speaking Out for Free Education for All

Luther, the revolutionary, the priest who started a new religion within Christianity. That’s how many of us know him best. But, did you know that Luther was also a revolutionary in regards to education? In a way, we can thank him for free public education, which is very much still policy in present day Germany. He not only supported that education should be free for all and not a privilege of the rich elite, but also pioneered in making education available for girls!

Luther – The Linguist and Uniter

By translating the Bible from Latin into German, Martin Luther united a people under the umbrella of one common German language. Before the days of the Bible written in German, the German language consisted of many varieties of dialects. Luther, fluent in both, the northern and southern German dialects, wanted all the German people to understand the teachings of the Bible. By taking all dialects into account he created a German language that was understandable to everyone. Credit Luther for the first standardized German, if you will!

Image: Pixabay.com


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