Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?
There’s absolutely no getting past the fact thought that another year has gone by and that Christmas is coming round again. Oh, time. Where have you gone? Not that the coming of Christmas isn’t a happy time, it’s just, well… it’s just arrived too soon, hasn’t it?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Germans from living in their beautiful country for the past four months is that they love their Christmas. In fact, it’s infectious, spreading to every other country around like a holly-jolly virus. Deutschlanders don’t skimp on the celebrations either. They start early and go hard right from the beginning. From early November you can expect to see quaint wooden shacks pop up, Glühwein towers start spinning, fairy-lights flicker on and treat-making machinery fire up.
Christmas here is entirely different to what I’ve experienced at home. Christmas in Germany is on a whole ‘nother level. While it’s unlikely we’ll see snow this year, and unfortunate that I’ll actually be out of the country on the big day itself (more on that to come!), I’ve still greatly enjoyed experiencing the razzle dazzle and unrestrained festive spirit of German Christmas.
As mentioned before, here it’s not weird to see decorations pop up early. While in Oz we often complain and grumble cynically about the stores putting up their lights and wreathes in November, but here it’s just part of the cycle. And there’s no complaint here, because while there’s little to do in Australia’s November festive season, here the markets open up and the parties begin long before any gifts are formally exchanged.
The cold here is another marked difference. I mean, it’s obvious, yeah? While typical Aussie Christmas involves beers, barbecues and beach (or, if you’ve been a bad boy, a visit to a crowded senior-centric lunch buffet at a city pub), German Christmas involves walking around with scarves wrapped tight and hot drinks in hand. There’s something that just seems more natural about doing it this way. Though I think decades of North American media has definitely slanted my views, there is something nice about having those hot treats warm you up and long nights to enjoy the colours of the lights.
I do love warm Aussie Christmas though. It holds a special place in my heart. Running downstairs in my light pajamas to find presents and lollies stacked high won’t be happening this year, or perhaps any year further now that I’ve entered these depressing adult years, but at least I’ll have the memory to hold onto.
One of my favourite things about European Christmas is the craft. You can’t go anywhere without being bombarded and bedazzled by all manner of pretty carvings, exotic glass ornaments or colourful ceramic decorations. Germany becomes a miniature wonderland in this period, with so many incredible arts to enjoy and shop windows full of colour to be amazed by.
And the treats… Oh my, the treats. I’ve acquired a particular taste for Glühwein and warm cider. I don’t think I’ve been to a market yet without one or two of these delicious beverages sitting cozily in my stomach. They’re just too good. And the waffles and the crepes and the ginger bread… phew, I’m getting a little heated up here… I used to work in a chocolate factory at one point, and so I thought I’d be over sweets by now. Apparently not. I don’t think anyone can get over sweets.
Of course, the joy of Christmas time is tinged with the looming threat of exams. At this time of year, people are finishing off their Autumn semester finals and stressing about where to go next. While it does grind some celebrations to a halt, the very fact that there are celebrations makes the whole stressful period go by a lot more smoothly. I guess schoolwork is just part and parcel of the deal, isn’t it? I wouldn’t be experiencing it at all if it weren’t for the school work.
Last night I attended a traditional Advent concert at Mannheim’s incredible Jesuit Church. While I can’t say much for the rather chaotic organ playing, I must say I was incredible impressed and even a little touched by the singing. I don’t think there’s much more in this world more beautiful than massed human voices, and to hear them singing in praise and celebration, even if you’re more of a secular or scientific person, should surely rattle something in your soul.
I sat there, among the wreathes, Christmas trees and candles, thinking how crazy it was for these millions of hairless, upright apes to come together to build something as incredible and beautiful as these churches and to write music that can touch spirits and sum up the wonder of the Universe. Isn’t it crazy how these disgusting and violent animals can also be so amazing and almost godly? What other creature on Earth celebrates Christmas?
Though, of course, Christmas isn’t celebrated by everyone, I really think this generally festive period marks a high point in the yearly cycle. This is a period when people come together to celebrate love, life, family and friends, no matter their creed or ethnicity.
Ho ho ho!