Wednesday night at the main Christmas market in Kiel.
When I grew up, my neighbors and my family friends all celebrated Christmas. I went to Christian school for years and was an every-Sunday-sing-in-the choir churchgoer. So some time around the middle of December, as a child, my farewell became, Have a Merry Christmas!. In return, I got, "You, too."
In high school my world got bigger. I was never sure who celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan or nothing. So I started saying Merry Christmas only to the people I knew for sure celebrated that holiday. When I moved to New York, I adopted, "Happy Holidays" and sent it out to everyone. It was just easier. Oh, it was the ugly stepsister to "Merry Christmas" but it had to be used, instead. I even sent out Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings cards. Oh, they were elegant, with a sophisticated snowflake design or winter landscape. But they were not beautiful or heartwarming. No family gathered around a tree. No tree. No baby Jesus. No manager. No star. No chubby-faced toddlers running down stairs to see what Santa Claus brought them. No Santa Claus. No reindeer. No nothing.
Germany has all the Christmas accessories and it is the only holiday that people care about.
Very unfortunately, activities during the 1940s got rid of most of its Jewish population. There is little talk of Hanukkah. Plus, Hanukkah's prominence on the American calendar is a relative recent event and the result of its chronological closeness to the present-heavy Christmas holiday.
Also, unfortunately, the Islamic community here is not as vocal as it is in the U.S. The Turkish population has not melded in to mainstream society, so there is almost two communities here. I have not gained entrance to that sphere, so I am not sure what happens during December. I have not heard anyone mention Ramadan here nor have I seen mention of it in print.
So, all I can do is wish everyone, Frohe Weihnachten. Merry Christmas.
Actually, it is Merry Christmases. Christmas celebration starts Christmas Eve and continues covers the evening of December 26.
Of course, this is all very closed-minded of me. I make no excuses. I love Christmas. I am lazy. I like discussing Christmas and all its trappings. I love the music. I love the sentiment. I love the good times that sprout from the holiday. I love it all. I think if I were not raised Baptist, I would still love Christmas. It is just so happy and fun.
For a few weeks a year, that is Germany -- happy and fun. There are Christmas trees, Weihnachtmann (a German variant on Santa Claus), lights and Christmas markets everywhere.
Every German city has several Christmas markets. They are all a little different but share a few common traits -- spiced wine called glühwein, no chairs, würstchen (sausages), kartoffel puffer (kind of like potato fritter), sauteed mushrooms, and people in good spirits. I have been to Christmas markets in Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Kiel. Each city offered a complex of tents selling candles, scarves, sweaters, Christmas decorations, gloves, candy, puppets and jewelry, but there is some variety. I had some awesome tapas a few weeks ago at Cologne's Christmarket near the Dom. Some markets are better than others. I preferred the market at the Alster Lake to the bigger one at the Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall) and the market at Neumarkt to the one at Cologne's glorious church.
Didgeridoo players at a tent selling food at the main Christmas market in Kiel.
Asmus and I exchanged presents today. The Germans prefer to give gifts on Heiligabend (the Holy Evening, Christmas Eve). Asmus handed me a certificate that said I had received a subscription to America's version of Vanity Fair magazine. I already gave Asmus his gift of an ice cream maker a week ago. We had company and I thought we would make them some homemade ice cream. I got him a secondary gift, so that he would hav something to open on Christmas. Well, I have lost my husband to Civilization IV video game. He has said about three sentences to me since he tore the paper off the box two hours ago. I am proud and a little sad at the same time.