In my last post, I mentioned a little bit about German Christmas traditions and culture.
Two weeks later, I have officially discovered that this subject deserves an entire post for itself. Maybe two. We'll see.
Christmas, or Weinachten, begins in Germany about halfway through November. There is no Thanksgiving in Germany, so the tradition of waiting until there's no turkey left isn't an option. There is also no Black Friday, but on Saturdays many large stores are open until 24.00. Advent, the tradition of lighting candles each Sunday in December to count down to Christmas, is a month-long holiday in itself. St. Nikolaus visits children on 6. December, leaving nuts, oranges and chocolate in their shoes as a little teaser for Christmas. The Vorfreude, or anticipation, of Christmas is celebrated as much as, if not more than, the Heilig Abend on 24. December.
Houses in Germany are often decorated with candles and greenery, and Christmas lights only sometimes make a loud and fluorescent appearance. Food and gifts are of course an integral part of the Christmas experience. Plätzchen, Christmas cookies, are baked in ridiculous and delicious quantities and varieties. The crowds in downtown Heidenheim are gigantic, as are the lines at H&M.
But the quintessential German Christmas experience is the Weinachtsmarkt, or Christmas market. The first time I saw a photo on Google Images of the lit-up booths full of greenery and stars, I knew immediately that I would have to visit on during my time in Germany. In my pre-departure presentation to Rotary, I told them my dream of seeing the German Christmas Mecca.
Little did I know then that the Weinachtsmarkt is, well, everywhere. You can't be an exchange student, or anyone else, in Germany and not visit one. I think I've visited 3, or 4, by now.
And let me tell you, they are the coolest thing. Aisles and aisles of traditional German crafts, gifts to buy, souvenirs, and warm food and drink. Decorations and little tables and carousels and everywhere, everywhere, people. Some with cameras (like me), some with children, lots with food; all with gigantic smiles. Because Weinachtsmarkte are awesome.