Our happy mix of Christmas traditions


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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).

A typical German Advent arrangement

A typical German Advent arrangement

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.

Christmas Cake I made for a friend last year

Christmas Cake I made for a friend last year

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).

One of the many Christmas cakes I have made over the years

One of the many Christmas cakes I have made over the years

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?

Our Advent calendar, made by my mother

Our Advent calendar, made by my mother

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Categories: Germany, Seasonal Bits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Our happy mix of Christmas traditions

  1. And Sun Tan Lotion, Sunglasses, Beach Towel and a Broad Brimmed Hat!

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  2. Thanks for educated me on your culture, I love the German traditions. By the way the cake was beautiful x

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  3. Julie

    Loved reading this, Simone. Your cakes are beautiful!

    When my husband and I married, we didn’t find much difference between our American and Canadian Christmas traditions. I’m not too tradition-bound but I do like to follow my mom’s menu for Christmas dinner; roast turkey, bread stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (in abundance!) and gravy, rolls, and pumpkin pie. I mainly use her recipes but usually pop one or two new twists into the mix. And we like to brine and barbecue our turkey which is quite a point of pride for my husband to be able to say he’s done that in maybe -15C temps. One Quebecois tradition I have adopted and love is making a Buche de Noel, or Christmas log. I make mine of chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and meringue mushrooms.

    Non-food tradition include a drive downtown to see Ottawa’s fantastic Christmas lights. Parliament Hill and most of the many public buildings and spaces are fully lit which is quite impressive. We also have a neighbourhood nearby that prides itself on the fact that every house does itself up for Christmas (actually overdoes itself!) and we’ll often visit there too. And a gift tradition is that I give each of my kids a special tree ornament each year so that once they leave home they’ll have 20 or more ornaments to get them started.

    I’m not a huge Christmas fan because of the overly commercial aspects but these traditions are important. Food, family, and warmth!

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    • Hi Julie, thanks for sharing your traditions with me. I love the thought of going downtown Ottawa to see the Christmas lights!

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  4. Wonderful how you mixed traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tammy

    Loved hearing about your Christmas traditions…and wow can you make a cake!

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  6. Loved hearing about how you combined your Christmas traditions. Your Christmas cake is spectacular.

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