warm fireplaces, old stories, and other essentials of a German Christmas

I celebrated Christmas this year for the first time in Southern Germany with Tilmann’s family.

A long 10 days of sleeping in until noon (I didn’t even know I had that skill), walking the happy dog in the misty hills, frequent coffee and cake breaks shortly followed by dinner, wine, stories, and games in the evening.

10 adults in total. Full-on German immersion. Thank goodness I was in wine country.

It was just my luck that Tilmann’s family is particularly traditional at Christmas. I was swept into the festivities, and here are a few of the highlights from that part of the world:

– Tree lights are often still delicate little candles in special holders.
My instincts tell me that wood is a common fuel for fire, but my ‘danger danger!’ face was told to trust in tradition…. and that only ‘a few’ accidents happen every year. Hold onto your cats and small children.

We went to Christmas Mass on the 24th. Immediately on coming home, we had to wait (im)patiently outside the living room for the tree candles to be lit for the first time (the tree is also only set up on the 24th). Upon the ringing of a bell we were allowed to enter and be absorbed into the warmth of the candle light. Carols were sung, presents were exchanged and then Christmas dinner was happily eaten.

– No traditional Christmas meal.
Believe it or not, North America has a long-standing tradition that doesn’t exist and (possibly) didn’t originate in Europe. 1 point North Am! We got 2 raclette ovens going and had an amazing session of grilling, melting, seasoning, and stuffing (ourselves that is). We heart cheese. Typical additions to the melted cheese: potatoes, mushrooms, onions, corn, pickles, beets. And of course meat, if you are into that sort of thing (see below on the effects of Christmas drinks).

– A few Christmas Carols that I know are also sung in German. Oh Holy Night, and Oh Christmas Tree, of course (Tannenbaum!)
Unbeknownst to us beforehand, this provided some nice bonding moments as I sang in English and tried to compete with the 3 singing sisters in German. No chance.

– Christmas markets never get old, unless they are of the medieval kind!
We went to a nearby town to check out the traditional market, as well as the completely authentic middle age market. I was already high on the beautiful style of the buildings surrounding the market. And then we stepped into the medieval market full of fire torches, wood stove baking, traditional leather and metal workers, and even a wood-heated hot tub wherein you could watch the crowds as they passed through. We got to try out archery, egg tossing, and plenty of mead as well, to keep the spirits high.

The mead might make you do crazy things though…. the 1-metre long sausages become very tempting for a vegetarian. Tilmann’s sister couldn’t resist.

The time in Germany passed easily, as we enjoyed a deeper sense of gratitude for having each other together that year.

And the dog appreciated a dance partner for his waltz to, of course, the Nutcracker Suite!

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