Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmastime in Germany

German Christmastime may actually be the best thing ever. End of. And I feel super lucky to be experiencing it myself this year.

The first sprinkling of snow back in November
A thick blanket of snow in December!

As I type, Bayreuth looks like a picture-perfect winter-wonderland, covered in a thick blanket of snow. I must apologise to my friends for the very many snowy snapchats I've been sending, but I just find it so exciting! (Very strange to get snapchats of blue sky and sunshine back from the likes of Paris and Venice, I must say.)

Snow makes everything sparkly, bright and beautiful, not to mention CHRISTMASSY! The centre of Bayreuth is brimming with Christmas trees (as well as a couple of extra huge lit-up ones), and seeing their branches laden with snow is really something special.

As I arrived back in Bayreuth from Prague last weekend, I was so excited to see all the Christmas lights had finally been turned on. Bayreuth has the longest chain of Christmas lights in all of Franconia, don'tcha know? They're really classy and beautiful too - none of the gaudy, coloured, flashing stuff we see so often back home, no siree!

Bayreuth has gone all out on the decorations, which, unsurprisingly, this gal *points to self with thumbs* is loving. There's so much going on in the town too - visits from Father Christmas, baking sessions for the kids (so jealous) and more festive concerts than you could shake a stick at. Heck, I'm even singing in the Christmas market this week with my gospel choir myself! That's going to be exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measures, I think.

I imagine you're starting to see that Christmas is a big deal in Germany, and Christmas markets are a big part of that.

While British ‘German’ Christmas markets open, like, two months before Christmas, most real German ones only open the weekend of 30th November, so there’s less than a month to go Christmas crazy over here. And let me tell you, Germany is totally Christmas crazy. Crazy, but in a classy way. It’s absolutely wunderbar.

With one of my sacred Christmastime weekends taken up by my super fun Prague trip, I'm trying sehr hard to visit as many German Christmas markets in these last few weeks as possible. Nuremberg and Bayreuth (obvs) have already been ticked off the list - the former was so great there'll be a whole separate blog post about it coming soon - and I'm hoping to cram in a couple more nearby ones too before I leave D-land. That way I can expand my German Christmas market mug collection.

Oh yes. That's right. If you didn't already know, the markets all have their own Glühwein mugs, and I for one am a big fan of this. I think it's really sweet, and have started something of a mini collection - they're great souvenirs. Ok, my 'collection' is only three strong at the moment (Bayreuth, Nuremberg and one from Heidelberg which my lovely friend, Stef, brought me when she came to stay), but still.

And I also feel the need to say that German Glühwein is a million kajillion times better than British (or any other nation's, for that matter) mulled wine. We can't quite put our fingers on why, but all my friends agree. I'm a big fan of the fruity variants myself. Standing under the Christmas lights, with your friends, holding a warm mug and sipping your steaming, sweet, spiced Glühwein... Well, it's really rather enjoyable, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Melting sugar into the Feuerzangenbowle.
But the Christmas markets are about much more than just Glühwein, my friends. They're about food, of course.

Oh no, wait, they're also about other things, from clothes to candles to Christmas decorations, but everyone's really there for the tasty treats, and we all know that.

My purchase from Bayreuth Christmas market.
Typical German Christmas market foods would be Lebkuchen, sweet roasted nuts, chocolate fruit and Wurst, but there's SO MUCH MORE to admire/try/drool over. Freshly-baked biscuits, cookies, Stollen, pizza, crêpes, waffles, chocolates and all sorts of German sweets and treats I'd never even heard of let alone tasted. It’s a feast for the eyes.

I took a warming (ha!) to these sweet microwaveable teddies.
And this is just at little Bayreuth's market. For reals.

Christmas traditions are also a little different here to back home as well - Christmas Eve is the big celebration day here, and there's also Nikolaustag on the 6th December.

Traditionally, the kids clean their boots on the evening of the 5th, leave them outside their doors, then the Nikolaus (Father Christmas) comes in the night and leaves a few chocolates or presents in their boot. Almost like our stocking tradition, really.

This year, I went to a party on Nikolausabend organised by the international student network at the Uni here. Basically, we were plied with copious amounts of Glühwein, Lebkuchen and spiced biscuits, treated to a few Christmas songs from various countries and visited by a somewhat less-than-realistic-looking Nikolaus. All in all a fun evening though, obvs.

When I awoke the next morning, not only did I open my curtains to find Bayreuth covered in snow, but I opened my door to find my boots filled with chocolates and presents!

My well-stuffed boots!
My housemates, Steffi and Karo, are such babes. They'd said to me beforehand, 'Oh, you don't need to bother about doing anything for Nikolaus,' but seeing as they both played Nikolaus for me, I'm jolly glad I got a little something for them too! A lot of chocolate all round.

Steffi told me that you're supposedly not meant to eat chocolate Santas until after December 6th in Germany. She asked if we have them too. I said yes. She asked if we celebrate Nikolaustag. I said no. She asked when we eat chocolate Santas then. I said ALL THE TIME. Well, all the Christmastime, anyway.

And let me tell you, German Christmas chocolate is amazing. I put a lot of thought into which Advent calendar to get, weighing up my options carefully – Lindt, Ritter Sport, Milka and Kinder were all candidates for my Cadbury’s Dairy Milk replacement, but the winner was Milka. Not just because it was cheapest, honest. (Although that was a sizeable factor in my consideration.)

But then, being the superstar that she is, my wonderful mother posted me a Cadbury’s Advent calendar from home too! So yes, I now have two Advent calendars, and quite frankly I’m not sure why I’ve never done this before. It’s fun.

Excitable selfie
Get this though: Dairy Milk Advent calendar is 90g, Milka is a solid 200g. And this is the kid-sized one as well – the ‘adult’ (and no, I don’t mean rude in any way, shape or form) Advent calendars were even bigger! Behind every door, I get a pretty sizeable Milka choccy, with a creamy filling on alternate days. Mmmm.

But I’m SO happy to have my home comforts in the shape of my Cadbury’s one too. It’s just plain Dairy Milk, but somehow chocolate tastes better from an Advent calendar. I remember discussing this with a friend a couple of years ago, and we came to the conclusion that Advent calendar chocolate is extra yummy because it’s infused with Christmas. You know it makes sense. And what doesn't make sense? Eating your advent calendar choccies early. it frustrates me. Why, just WHY, would you ruin the magic of it for yourself? HMM!? Sorry, I feel pretty strongly about Christmas magic.

As ever, I’m feeling pretty infused with Christmas myself. I’ve covered my flat in paper snowflakes (made while watching The Grinch), have been blasting out my Christmas playlist and cracking on with the festive films, and I’m proudly sporting my many Christmas jumpers, sparkly eye make-up and jingly earrings. The past couple of weeks have been all about cosy evenings in involving hat-knitting with my housemates and hot chocolate. The only thing missing has been a roaring log fire! (Oh, alright, and a tin of Quality Street...)

Somewhat stressfully though, I seem to be very behind on the Christmas present shopping. I guess I keep getting distracted by sparkly lights and Glühwein mugs. Oops. But fear not, loved ones, there is still time, and I shall not forget you.

As much as I am in my absolute element at the moment here in Germany, I am really REALLY looking forward to going home for Christmas. In a way, I think we get the best of both worlds (just like Hannah Montana before she found that wrecking ball, eh?): the build-up to Christmas in Germany, and then the actual day at home. For me, Christmas is all about family, and my siblings and I are sticklers for tradition – we like Christmas day to be exactly the same every year. Because IT’S AWESOME! (No pressure, parents.)

Luckily, I’m now well stocked-up on mince pies to see me through till I land back on British soil, and with less than two weeks left here this year, I’m sure as hell going to make the most of everything German Christmas has to offer. Well, wouldn’t you? *goes off to the kitchen in search of Lebkuchen and mince pies*


  1. Oh gosh these pictures are amazing!!



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