Christmas is only a few days away, and it seems hard to believe. The last couple of weeks have seemingly gone by in a blur as the Mr. has been busy working on a report (which he finally finished today – thank goodness!) and I’ve been busy hosting first a little Christmas party, and then friends from out-of-town staying with us. I sort of wish I could hit the “pause” button now and make this time before Christmas last a little longer.
Part of the problem is that we had to wait until mid-December to get our tree. Every year the Mr. and I debate whether we should continue to get a real tree, or just make it easier on ourselves and buy a fake one. While we both enjoy having a real tree, the hassle of getting it and the mess it creates is enough to make us doubt every year which way we should go. The Mr. had even less time than usual this year to think about anything to do with Christmas, so it almost looked as if we would order a fake tree, but dang….fake trees are expensive in Germany! And small! I had a look at Amazon. de., and as far as I could tell we couldn’t get a tree any taller than roughly my height (5’10”), and it was going to cost close to €200. In the end, the Mr. said he really does prefer a real tree to a fake one and decided to walk down to the grocery store that sells them and buy one. He hauled it on his own all the way back uphill to our flat. I was expecting another short and dumpy one like last year, but this year the Mr. picked out the best tree ever; it’s very tall (maybe 7 feet?) and lush and the needles are soft. It even has a nice scent, which has faded a little but you can still smell. It was a clever strategy on his part. After such a nice tree this year, I think I would find it more difficult to order a fake one next year (even though I am impatient every year to put one up at the beginning of December rather than the middle, and you can only get a real tree from about mid-December.) The good news is that Germans do keep their real trees up later (until Heilige Drei Könige – Three Kings Day – on the 6th of January), so at least we aren’t expected to take it out for pick-up right after New Year’s.
The other problem is that we’ve had less time (and I suppose, if I’m honest, I’m less able) to do lots of Christmasy things. At the beginning of December we did visit the nearby village of Himmelstadt’s Christmas market, which although it wasn’t particularly big, was nice. Himmelstadt means “heaven,” or “sky” and because of its name the Weihnachtspostamt Himmelstadt (“Himmelstadt Christmas Post Office”) has existed since 1986, jointly run by Deutsche Post and the community. People from all over the world send their letters to Himmelstadt, and they are responded to by volunteers in the community. What I liked about the Himmelstadt Christmas market was that everything there was handmade, from what I could see. It reminded me a little of Sommerhausen’s Christmas market that we visited last year.
I bought a couple of small ornaments, a new fabric key ring that I can slide around my wrist, and a cute bib and neck scarf-type thing for the baby. I have no idea whether I will be able to get it over his head without feeling like I am suffocating him, but it certainly looks cute 🙂
I also ventured into Würzburg while friends were visiting, and enjoyed walking around the Christmas market. I got to check out (for the first time) the Würzburger-Kunstler Weinachtsmarkt (the “Artist” Christmas market) where, again, one can find handmade items. It’s only open on certain weekends in December, so I think that’s why I missed it before. After sampling a few different ones, I bought three jars of jam from one of the vendors. I chose the Beerenauslese mit Haselnußkrokant u. Honig (specially selected berries with hazelnut pieces and honey), Gewürzholunder (spiced elderberry) and one with currant and vanilla. I thought about giving some of them away as gifts, but I think I will greedily hold on to all three.
From there, we headed to the normal Christmas market and checked out a couple of my favorite ornament vendors. The first we visited has primarily glass ornaments for sale. Last year I bought one of the cute pretzels you see in the photo here. I love old-fashioned-looking glass ornaments, though I’m not sure how sensible they are given our hardwood floors and a baby on the way….They have a great selection of just about every sort of glass ornament you can imagine in this shop, from the cute German-themed ones shown here to enough different animals to fill a zoo.
This year, however, I decided to buy a different sort of ornament. I had a lot of fun last year picking out a traditional wooden Käthe Wohlfahrt ornament for my mom. He was a cute Santa figure holding some presents with a string you can pull and make his arms and legs move. Since I tend to like glass and glitter more than plain painted wood, I find myself drawn to Käthe Wohlfahrt’s “Frosty” series. I picked out the ornament to the left, Santa delivering pressies via helicopter. The ornaments by KW aren’t cheap, but given that they are actually hand-crafted and highly collectible, I sort of look at them as an investment. I’m not sure whether our tree has the space, but I’d love to buy one every year as a new holiday tradition.
There were a few other additions to the ornament collection this year. This cute cupcake was given to me by a visiting friend who knows me (and my dessert preferences) well. This is my third cupcake ornament, and I could see myself someday quite happily having a tree decked out entirely in cupcake ornaments 🙂
And then this little bell to the left was one that (I think) actually came from the Himmelstadt Christmas market. Last week I had a group of friends over for a little get-together to celebrate Christmas, and we had an ornament exchange. I had never participated in an ornament exchange before, but the idea is that each person brings either a new or previously loved Christmas ornament all wrapped up. You sit around in a circle and pass the ornaments around while a song plays. When the song comes to an end, you end up with whatever ornament you’re holding. I loved the Christmas bell that I opened. Given that bells form part of the Christmas tradition here in Germany, this one will probably come in handy someday.
And finally, I found this ornament when I was back in the US in the fall. The backstory to this is that we nicknamed our German-American Bundle of Joy “Gumgum” when we saw our first sonogram image of him. The doctor said, “Oh, look – there the baby is and it’s about the size of a gummi bear.” Somehow, “gummi bear” turned into Gumgum, and thus we had our nickname. When I saw this gumball machine ornament, I knew I had to buy it and (carefully) transport it back to Germany. I took some glue and glitter and wrote “2012” to commemorate the Christmas that he’s been a part of, even if he’s not yet technically “here.”