German Word of the Day:
n. fem., preparation
This post is not about Christmas.
Okay, well maybe that depends how you look at it. This post is about Advent. If you don’t know, Advent is the name for the four weeks leading up to Christmas day. In America, this period of reflection and preparation seems to get swallowed up by Christmas itself. In Germany, however, Advent gets a little more attention. Starting four Sundays before Christmas, most Germans observe a few traditions that are distinct from the celebration of Christmas, so I thought they deserved a post of their own. Here are some of the traditional ways of celebrating Advent in Germany:
We have a problem in the US, which is our lack of creativity regarding Advent calendars. And never have I had as wonderful an Advents calendar as my host parents set up for me this year!
St. Nikolaus Day
St. Nikolaus comes on December 6th and leaves presents in children’s shoes. One of the perks of being a foreign exchange student is that everyone wants to give you the “full experience” – that means you get chocolate in your boots even when you should be way too old for that!
Cookies and Christmas Trees
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to get to visit some great friends of mine in Berlin, and together we got some things ready for the holidays. Naturally, cookies (Platzchen) and a Christmas tree (Weihnachtsbaum) are non-negotiable.
There is just nothing like a German Christmas market. During November and December, little booths pop up in nearly every city center selling handmade Christmas goods. It’s like stepping into a whole other world… Sparkling lanes wind between rows of wooden huts filled with shining glass balls and glittering silver candlesticks and carved wooden figures, the aroma of fresh bread and roasted nuts and hot wine pokes out of every corner, Christmas music floats up to the night sky… it’s really impossible to describe the feel of a Weihnachtsmarkt.
This weekend, I got to visit the Christmas market in Dresden, which is one of the most popular in the country. There were hundreds of venders scattered throughout the city – it was breathtaking.
My little town of 8,000 people was only able to host a Christmas market for one weekend, but at least the Christmas lights are up and running every night now! Walking through the sparkly cobblestones streets, I try to remind myself to stop and take in the whole season, and right now that means it’s not 11 days until Christmas… it’s Advent.