Jack has just run up to me and asked me, if it’s not too much trouble, to do a Christmas blog post. So here it is. Mainly I’m reflecting on how, even though it’s only the 24th, “Christmas” has well and truly started here in Germany.
A few years ago when we were in London, we booked a flight to Sweden to “spend Christmas” with our mates. I rung H on the phone and said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m looking at a flight that arrives in the afternoon on the 24th, so …” and she said, “So, you’re arriving on Christmas Day?” And I laughed. Silly H, doesn’t she know when Christmas is? “No, we arrive the twenty-FOURTH, not the 25th.” Duh.
“The 24th is Christmas Day in Sweden.” Ah. My bad. And as soon as you start asking Folk From Other Lands, “Hey, when do you guys celebrate Christmas?” you get a whole stack of different answers.
In Germany, Christmas Day is 25th but there’s a whole bunch of stuff happens on 24th too. Let me try and explain as best I’ve worked it out for myself:
Today is 24th – Heiliger Abend which means “Holy evening”, basically Christmas Eve. Most shops are open till about 1-2pm. This is usually the day that German families put up their Christmas tree. Yep, not till 24th! Most churches will have a Krippenspiel, a nativity play, some time in the afternoon, and after that most families will have a big meal, sing carols, and later on maybe go up to mass in the church at about 10pm or so. The opening of presents happens on the 24th either before or after late mass, probably depending on the age and energy levels of the children.
So what are we doing? Well, we got our tree a couple of days ago and decided just to put it up the next day – apparently this is quite acceptable! Joe and I took our last chance to get to the supermarket and get food for the next few days – OK, and a couple of last minute presents too. Molly went up to the village Krippenspiel this afternoon and got back about 5pm and then we all opened our presents. We are having dinner with J’s parents (who live upstairs from us) at about 8pm. I’m a bit crook today so I don’t think I’ll make it up to a 10pm church service.
Tomorrow is 25th – Weihnachten. Total public holiday just like in NZ. More big meal with family, more church-time, probably a late start if you had one too many schnapps the night before. We are off to have a meal with W’s parents, via church where W’s mum is singing in the choir.
And then 26th – St Stephens Day. All shops shut, otherwise similar to our Boxing Day in that it’s a time chance to visit other family members, play board games or go for a drive in the countryside. We have no plans at all – we’ll just relax and see what the day brings.
Here’s some photos from when we bought our tree in the village on Saturday, and of the kids just before the starter’s gun goes off to open presents.
Hey – Merry Christmas to you. Thanks for reading my posts and I hope to keep you all informed with what we get up to in 2015.
This photo doesn’t really capture the howls of protest from Molly that our tree was too small.