14 December 2010

Our Germarican Christmas

As you know, our family consists of two parts, my German half and the hubby's Puerto Rican half. So we are celebrating a mixed Christmas. I guess an American Christmas.... But today, I want to tell you HOW I used to celebrate Christmas back home and what I miss most.

I read somewhere that Christmas is suppose to be considered by Germans as the most important holiday. (I only agree if you do NOT forget my birthday - because that is MY favorite holiday.) Truth be told, I think they are right, we Germans make quite a big fuss over it. I mean we don't have Thanksgiving in our way, so we can actually start 'getting ready' in early November! We put up real trees - and when I was younger, we put real candles on those real trees!!! Yeah, shocker! Well, for some reason my parents stopped doing that when we got older - can't explain that one. My favorite memory is singing with my mom ALL those Christmas songs and carols. I loved it, and we sang through book after booklet after sheet music.

The German holiday season is a time for family and friends - it is most definitely less consumption-oriented than over here in the states. Not only the holiday itself, but also the weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas involve many traditions and customs.
There are those lovely the advents calendars - that by the way were invented in my home country. They can be store-bought or home-made. When I was young, I had lots of homemade ones, and I am definitely planning on making some for my kids.
Then there is the Advent -the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. We used to sit down as a family in the living room, Christmas music was playing, candles were burning, and we had tea and cookies or Stollen. Stollen is the oldest known German Christmas treat; it's a loaf-shaped cake containing dried fruit, and covered with sugar, or powdered sugar.
We put up Gingerbread houses, nativity scenes, hand-carved wooden Nutcracker figures, Christmas pyramids, and 'Schwippbogen' .The Advents Wreath is a wreath with four candles, one the first Advent only one candle burns, on the second two, on the third three and on the fourth all four candles are burning.

The one thing that I miss most about the Christmas season are the German Weihnachtsmaerkte, the Christmas markets. And any American attempt to recreation or copying has not worked - at least I have not found it yet. One can find those lovely markets pretty much in every German town, large or small, on the town squares. Vendors sell all kinds of goodies there, from hot mulled wine, to baked goods, to Christmas ornaments, or wooden toys. It is a blast. They play Christmas music over speakers, and the entire atmosphere just makes one jump into the season if you want it or not!

The last German tradition is the Nikolaus - but I mentioned that in this post: Nikolaustag.

So German children get their gifts already on Christmas Eve. I am not sure why? So I googled it. Here is what it said where it comes from - source is Wikipedia. They say this tradition began with the Reformation, so with Martin Luther. It says that he was of the opinion "that one should put the emphasis on Christ's birth and not on a saint's day and do away with the connotation that gifts have to be earned by good behavior". "The gifts should be seen as a symbol for the gift of God's grace in Christ".

I like it, or actually I used to like it until just recently. I was thinking about it and it makes so much more sense to have Santa Claus come overnight and open gifts, in PJs, on Christmas Day. Since I am a Christian, I love going to the evening service at church to celebrate Jesus' birth because that is what Christmas is really about. In the morning, we can do the gifts and all the commercialism that comes with the American Christmas...

Merry Christmas to all.


Anonymous said...

My, we used to have real tree and real candles on it too - the best sight/ smell/ feeling ever! Whatever happened to that?...
And I completely agree about the outdoor markets - they would take place in the town squares around the main city tree... So jolly! Thanks for reminding that to me!

C. Beth said...

We actually did open gifts on Christmas Even when I was a kid!

The German Christmas sounds lovely. :)