Christmas in Germany begins with the Advent wreath of four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas. I was in Wolfgang and Helga’s home on a Sunday for the lighting of the first candle.
This is Saturday, and Juliane will light the second candle in her home tomorrow.
The Advent calendar is another German tradition that involves children in the festivities leading up to Christmas day.
The calendars have 24 small windows, one of which is opened on each day leading up to Christmas. A small piece of chocolate is usually hiding inside the window.
Juliane made an Advent calendar of her own for Wolfgang and Helga. Her Advent calendar consisted of family photos. The backs of the photos were covered with Christmas decor, and that is what you see first. When the next day arrives, you turn the card with the design to the back side so the family photo is displayed Then take your piece of chocolate.
Another tradition happens on Dec. 5, when children put their clean shoes out on the door step with the hope that St. Nicholas will fill them with nuts, fruits and chocolate goodies the next day. If the children have been good, they will find the sweets, but if they have been bad, they will receive only a switch.
It’s also the time neighbors, as in the case of Lenny and Juliane’s place, leave little chocolates and sweet gifts at the door.
Christmas presents are exchanged on Dec. 6th, the same day most Christmas Markets open.
Lenny told me about that as we sat for dinner, and then surprised me with a gift. The gift is unusual and I love it. It is a map made in gold relief. When I get home after this journey, I am to scratch a tiny spot in the gold to show every place I have been.
I have walked to the local Christmas market near Juliane and Lenny’s apartment, and each time, I see something different.
There are kiosks with all kinds of traditional food including gluhwein – hot mulled wine, and apple cider. There are baked gingerbread hearts, sugar-roasted almonds, crepes, cookies, stollen and cotton candy.
I’ve seen a variety of shapes in bees wax candles, wooden toys, and hand made wool scarves, hats and mittens.
Two days ago I stopped at an Italian restaurant because I wanted to be inside for awhile. The Italian hostess was interested in my travels, and because she saw that I had my camera with me said she would take a photo of me.
So I found a bright candy kiosk and she clicked away.
Yesterday, my niece, Maria – Juliane’s mother – came to visit along with Juliane’s brother David and his little boy.
It was a delight to see Maria as a grandmother. We all took a walk to the night Christmas market. It was alive with lots of people – old and young, greeting their neighbors and toasting to the Christmas season.
Christmas Eve is the traditional gift giving night, where families get together to exchange gifts. On this day, I will be in Berlin with my Colorado friend, Marilyn McCord.