One of the most enjoyable things I find about living abroad is discovering all the new traditions and holidays of the host culture. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to experience a number of Christmas season “firsts” here in Germany. On Sunday 28th November, the Mr. and I traveled to his Aunt and Uncle’s house for their annual First Advent party. According to Wikipedia, Advent “is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” Many people here purchase an Advent wreath, and they light a candle on each Sunday of Advent leading up to Christmas until all four candles are eventually lit. I’m not sure if the idea of doing something on the First Advent is simply a family tradition or is more generally something many Germans do, but the Mr.’s family get together for brunch and spend the afternoon visiting.
Then this past weekend, the Mr. and I travelled to Nuremberg to experience what is considered one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. We felt a little disappointed that the setting of the market wasn’t a bit more impressive. Nuremberg, like many German cities, was bombed heavily during WWII. Most of the buildings that were put up during the reconstruction period were simple concrete structures that sadly don’t have much character, so the square in Nuremberg where the main market takes place is disappointingly surrounded by such buildings. Nevertheless, we did enjoy other aspects of the market. Firstly, there was a fantastic horse-drawn carriage that made a couple of appearances while we were walking around. We also enjoyed visiting smaller “breakout” markets that were located near but apart from the main one. The first we saw was a world market where all the cities around the world that Nuremberg is partnered with as a “sister city” each had a stand. A few of those cities included Venice, Verona, Atlanta, Glasgow, etc., so it was interesting seeing all the wares each for sale. I found the Glasgow and Atlanta stands particularly interesting, but sadly no Cheetos or Twiglets on offer. We also visited the Children’s market which had a fantastic double carousel and other rides for kids. Above each of the rides were wooden figures on the signs that moved – pretty cool for young and old kids alike. After walking around the market for a couple of hours, we couldn’t feel our toes anymore (it was about 19 degrees fahrenheit) so we headed to the cinema to see the latest Harry Potter film in English. Big, happy sigh. It was a great day out, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit Nuremberg again (I was briefly there when I was 18). Apart from the convenience of having lots of English-language films showing on a regular-basis, the shopping seems to be fairly good. I discovered they had a Lush store, squealed with joy, and went on a mini shopping spree. Yes, I think there will be many more visits to Nuremberg in the future.
And finally yesterday I had another German Christmas “first,” goodies in my boot from Nikolaus. According to The Local, Nikolaus “was a Greek Christian bishop known for miracles and giving gifts secretly, and is now the patron saint of little children, sailors, merchants and students.” Germans remember his death on 6 December by having children put out a boot the night before to be filled with treats in the morning if they’ve been good. The Mr. and I debated whether we should celebrate Nikolaus or instead put up stockings on Christmas Eve to be filled for Christmas morning (as is the American tradition). We toyed with the idea of doing both (double the treats – hurrah!) but then remembered we won’t actually be here for Christmas morning (d’oh!) I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing, so I bought the Mr. enough treats to fill TWO of his boots. But it was probably still less than what I would have bought to fill a stocking. Oh, and Nikolaus really did visit us – we had a chocolate Santa sitting on our bookcase outside our flat door in the morning =)