Continuing with the Christmas theme this month, I want to share some of our Christmas traditions with you all.
The first Christmas I spent with my husband, back in the days when we were dating, was at my parent’s place, together with my younger brother and sister.
To my English husband a German Christmas must have been a very different experience to what he was used to.
In Germany Christmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th of December and a Christmas tree was not bought until the same morning and then decorated during the afternoon, with Santa arriving in our flat around 6pm that evening. Whereas in the UK my husband was used to celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, with trees going up in everyone’s houses in the first few weeks of December.
The traditional English Christmas Dinner consisting of turkey, brussels sprouts, sage & onion stuffing, parsnips and carrots, roast potatoes and gravy is something very alien in Germany. In a lot of German households goose is still the choice for a feast roast, but not so at my parents. No, on Christmas Eve (Weihnachten) my mum would always make bratwurst with a potato or pasta salad and on Christmas Day (1. Weihnachtsfeiertag) we always would go out to our favourite local Greek restaurant. My parents still follow this ritual to this day, with and without us kids (and we still love it).
Advent is another one of those things my husband knew very little about. In Germany advent is a big deal and is celebrated on the four Sundays prior to Christmas and each Sunday another candle is lit on the advent wreath. I know that in the UK advent is also a celebration, but mainly in churches, and the overall idea of advent has not really been adopted by the general public outside of that setting. In Germany flower shops prepare weeks ahead for this event, crafting beautiful advent wreaths or the modern version thereof; even the German supermarkets are carrying advent wreaths or arrangements.
One of my favourite days in December as a child was the 6th December, which is Saint Nikolaus day in Germany and many other European countries. To prepare for this all children clean their boots the night before and place them outside their bedroom door. If you have been a good child Saint Nik will leave you some sweets (and a present if you are really lucky), but if you were a bad child you would only get a bunch of sticks, called a “rute” in German. Again, this was something completely new to my husband back then.
In turn, the English fruit Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are something not known in Germany and something I learned about during my first English Christmas dinner thanks to the family of my husband’s boss at the time.
So over the first few years of our married life we took our respective traditions and merged them.
We celebrate Saint Nikolaus day on the 6th of December, much to our daughter’s delight. We have an advent candle arrangement, a Christmas calendar and stockings hanging from the mantle. Most years we have bratwurst and potato salad on Christmas Eve and if we feel so inclined, we even allow everyone to open one present on that night in remembrance of my German heritage, followed by the setting out of a carrot for Rudolph, a mince pie and drink for Santa. All this is followed by a traditional English Christmas Day with a full Christmas Dinner, including the pudding, as well as the Queen’s Annual Speech at 3pm. Our sweet treats during the holidays is a happy mix of German Lebkuchen (gingerbread), German chocolates and English Quality Street sweets and lots of other goodies. The star undoubtedly is the decorated Christmas cake I have been making every year since we got married (with a different design every year – but that’s another post probably next week).
I think we have struck a good balance between the German and the English Christmas traditions and I cannot imagine doing it any other way now, no matter where we live.
So, what are your family traditions at this time of year?