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Friday, December 26, 2014

German Holidays - Chriatmas

My First Christmas in Germany


There are many aspects to the Christmas Season, both religious and secular, within Germany!  Because of the diversity here, it would be very difficult to define or generalize exactly how Christmas is celebrated for everyone.  However, I will write of my personal experiences.  The Holiday Season began for my wife and I with the arrival of the Weihnachtsmäkte (Christmas Matkets).  Little, social gathering places where people can get together, enjoy currywurst and gluhwine and begin their Christmas shopping.  December marks the beginning of Advent which was celebrated by the lighting of one candle on the first Sunday.  December 6th is called Nikolaus (St. Nicolas Day) to honor St. Nicolas.  For adults, Nikolaus was celebrated by going out for dinner and the exchanging of gifts.  For children, Nikolaus is celebrated by cleaning their shoes and leaving them by the door the night before.  If they have been good, they might find coins, treats and toys near their shoes in the morning.  Nikolaus is a Christian Holiday and doesn't appear to be celebrated by everyone.  As Advent progresses, a new candle is lit each Sunday.  Advent reaths wreaths with either four candles or four lights were very common almost everywhere I went.  Also very popular here, were Advent calendars.  With the passing of each day, a little door can be opened to reveal a piece of chocolate.   Some Advent calendars were even more elaborate and contained not only chocolates, but other presents and little treats as well.  I noticed these calendars all over.  Christmas Dinner, the exchanging of gifts and the arrival of Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) all takes place on Christmas Eve and is treated very much like a secular event.  Many people from all religions celebrate this night with their family and close friends.  We had our Christmas Dinner in my wife's parents home.  There, we enjoyed amazing food, drink, company and the exchanging of presents.   (I am careful not to use the word "gift" because that word means poison in German).  The following morning, Christmas Day, is a much quieter day designated more for church, spiritual celebration and more meaningful family time.  In America, especially for the Christian patents of young children, deciding to stay home or go to church can be a difficult decision.  Because the religious and secular celebrations are split over two days, Santa Claus and Church don't have to compete for one's attention, everything can be enjoyed.  In addition to Christmas Day, the following day is also treated as a holiday.  The stores remain closed, the streets are very empty and the time is used to personally celebrate the birth of Christ or reflect upon the passing of another year.  Two days after Christmas, the stores once again open and Germans flock to them to return/exchange presents and begin stocking supplies for the next Holliday...  Silvester!

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