Frohe Weihnachten! I hope everyone had a very happy holiday and is enjoying a little R&R before the start of the new year – I know I am.
The week leading up to Christmas, in all its glorious chaos, is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s family time, hour-long Christmas movie marathons, lots of pretty wrapping paper, and an endless to-do list of last-minute shopping, cooking, and tree-trimming touches. Now that my second German Christmas is in the books, it’s safe to say that this one was even better than the last.
Last Christmas was my introduction to Germany: a crash course on the Deutsche Bahn, a whirlwind Christmas market tour, and a lot of Berlin. And then one day it was Christmas.
Even though it came out of nowhere, it really was an excellent Christmas. Germany looked Christmas-y, it was cold (but snow-less), the food everywhere was great, and I had a suitcase stuffed full of beautifully wrapped presents for everyone. I couldn’t have asked for a better time. But it wasn’t until this Christmas that I realized just how much German holiday spirit I missed out on by being on-the-go so much! This time around I have been determined to experience Christmas to its fullest. My plan was to start early – like spending an evening learning how to make German Christmas cookies right after Thanksgiving – in order to cram as much Christmas into the month as possible.
For my second Christmas in Germany I…
Ate my way through the last week of Weihnachtsmärkte.
When you think of German Christmas markets one of your first thoughts is probably glühwein. That’s only natural. Glühwein is warm and delicious and very seasonal, but I doubt most have experienced the happiness of the first crunchy, cheesy bite of a käsewurst. It’s just as magical. If ever life gets you down and you happen to be at a Christmas market, grab one; they’re an unbeatable cure for a bad day.
For the last week of the Christmas markets, I made it my mission to expand my Weihnachtsmarkt palate. With my käsewurst count up to 5, F and I made a quick day trip to take on Köln’s seven Christmas markets. More on that trip soon!
This waffle with hot cherries and whipped cream came in a pretty close second.
Or maybe Reibekuchen – they’re hot, fried potato cakes enjoyed best with a side of apple sauce. It definitely wins the award for most filling food eaten this December. I’ll never be able to finish the three that they give you no matter how hungry I am.
Mastered the “Wichtelgeschenk”.
The Stammtisch that has graciously taken me in also invited me to their annual Christmas party. It was a day of great food – brunch and then crepes – great friends and an exhausting amount of German. And after lunch we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts, where I snagged some much appreciated bath salts and made my Christmas gift-wrapping trial run.
Christmas tree shopping.
It has been my dream for two Christmases now to find and chop down our own Weihnachtsbaum. Unfortunately time got the best of us this year and we had to resort to a plan B: choosing a tree personally cut down by one of our farmer neighbors and walking it home. Not too shabby and still pretty authentic.
I love the Christmas tree F’s family puts up. Green and gold and covered in real candles (I’ve only seen the tree catch fire once, but a watchful eye is definitely necessary).
Made sure to do everything – the shopping, wrapping, cooking – very last-minute. Whoops..
As previously stated, I love the chaos of all the last-minutes at Christmas time. I may actually prefer it this way. A morning busy with a last minute grocery store trip to buy better sweet potatoes and some extra wine. A day spent anxiously waiting for the gift Amazon promised would be there on the 23rd while whipping up the food and drinking too much coffee. Needless to say, the hours counting down to 8 o’clock on Christmas Eve were busy and perfect.
Slowly but surely watching all my favorite Christmas movies.
Up until now we’ve watched Love Actually (twice, both times in German), Elf, Frosty the Snowman, Home Alone, and Home Alone 2, but there are plans to watch many, many more in the next days. What are some of your favorite suggestions?!
Practiced my cooking (and German) on Heiligabend and the two Weihnachtstage.
Christmas in Germany is a three day event: Heiligabend and the first and second Christmas days. It’s proven surprisingly difficult to make it through these days full of food and fun and their accompanying late nights. I’m pretty exhausted now that it’s over. I just have to make it through New Year’s Eve..
In F’s family, Christmas Eve has always been the night Christkind visits so we have our small family dinner and gift exchange the first night. As per the tradition, there’s a quick Christmas Kaffee-Kuchen at 4 o’clock – to hold us over until dinner is ready.
Ever since describing our authentic German Thanksgiving to F’s mom, I was tasked with the
pressure pleasure of cooking a typically American Christmas dinner. I’m not sure how “American” my dishes are, but they are typical of my family and happen to be some of my favorite foods so why not.
Once again the sweet potato casserole is the surprise favorite with the German crowd, once you convince them that even though it’s sweet it isn’t Nachtisch. I loved seeing all my favorite comfort foods dressed up with fancy napkins and crystal glasses. That’s definitely not how we eat broccoli casserole and ham rolls at home.
On Christmas day, after eating way too much the night before, we had the second, bigger family dinner. I was still stuffed but how could someone say no to eating potato soup with a golden spoon?! German dinners are so fancy. By the end of the night – and after too many bowls of soup – I was done with Christmas and ready to crawl into bed. The second Christmas day (thankfully)proved much tamer.