I have long hated Christmas. When I got to Germany, when the guilt over having to choose where to spend the holidays (my ‘rents of the in-laws, a three hour plane ride away… and if by my parents, which family to see) disappeared, my plan as a young adult was to spend every last week of December in a Muslim country. Though Turkey is nice in December, it’s also teeth-chattering cold. And it was strange to have to reconcile my image of Christmas looking like a wintry wonderland with the images we saw there of dusty streets in empty villages that smelled of burning plastic so I gave up on that after a year. Besides, the next year I was pregnant and giardia + pregnancy isn’t fun so my plans for Tunisia died.
Now that the Diva is here and there’s nothing she likes more than singing silly songs and spraying glitter everywhere, I’m giving up my inner Grinch and embracing Christmas. The only thing cuter than a toddler in a Santa hat trying to sing Jingle Bells is the look on her face when her mom’s friend shows up dressed like Santa. And it’s the only way to be if you live in Germany because this place LIVES for Christmas. Being festive and merry is a must to get through days when the sun sets before 4 and your snot freezes the minute you walk out the front door. While I am still not a Christmas market connoisseur (there are great write-ups of Berlin here and if you’ve blogged about others, let me know so I can link them in), I appreciate them more than in years past. So what have I done this year to get make sure my days are merry and bright?
1. Got my parents to come over to celebrate. Because family is what Christmas is all about, right? And I’m all the wiser now to what’s behind the meltdowns.
2. Bought Diva and I ice skates last year to get her stoked on skating and already took them out for a turn in Berlin (where you can skate for free at the Market on Potsdamer Platz).
3. Went to a Christmas market early on… on a Monday afternoon. Not too cold. Not too full. Not too many grumpy people working. No cheap sweet wine heated with terrible spices. *Dreamy*
4. Wrapped Christmas lights on the balcony and a tiny, real, potted evergreen to put outside the balcony door (since German tradition says we have to decorate on Dec 24, this is a great compromise for Diva, who is as impatient as any child).
5. Hung an Advent calendar to count the days.
6. Visited Diva’s godmother, who taught her the art and meaning of decorating an Advent wreathe… four candles, lots of green, some glittery ribbon and star anise.
7. Baked sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls (the first is German, the second Swedish) and added the requisite three kilos to keep my body warmer during hibernation.
8. Crafted stars and hung them in the window.
9. Helped Diva pick out her special Christmas dinner dress so that we can really treat it like a special occasion.
10. Read the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Over. And over. And over.
11. Saw The Nutcracker ballet in Berlin. A kid’s dream come true, I was so nostalgic for my childhood Christmases with this kitsch-fantastic production. A must.
So how about you? What are you doing to get in the spirit? What German holiday traditions are you adopting?