Blending Weihnachten and Christmas

The number one day for being homesick for me is without a doubt Christmas. That’s the 24th, not the 25th of December. Especially if the husband is working hard to fly people to their loved ones but I always miss my family and participating in the family Christmas festivities. But this year husband had the day off (the perks of getting older… more seniority… better schedules – FINALLY)! Alas, I didn’t just do what I would usually do, that is have a German Christmas, but we wanted to make sure to include both German and American traditions as we’re creating our own family traditions for the three of us.

When does the Christmas Tree / Weihnachtsbaum go up?

At home in Germany, my family always has an advent wreath and you light one more candle in it on every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The main greenery, uhum, that Christmas tree, funnily enough is put up just mere days before Christmas Eve. Heck, there’ve been plenty of years that we didn’t decorate it until the 24th! Promptly on January 6th though it would go to the curb. In my home village the volunteer fire department would collect all the Christmas trees and stack them up for the Easter bonfire. Fun times.

Conversely, here in the U.S. Christmas trees go up the day after Thanksgiving – the last Friday of November. Then I see them on the curb as early as December 26th. I totally love putting it up that early. I totally hate taking it down so soon. If I’m honest, decorating a tree is kind of a pain in my butt. Fun, but a pain. Getting all the ornament hangers untangled and stringing the light chain… Bleh. But, I love having a Christmas tree and after all that hard work of decorating it I want it up for as long as possible!! So it should come as no surprise that we are picking and choosing the best of both worlds. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving and stays up until January 6th. I also want to make an advent wreath next year to introduce our baby boy to that tradition from back home.

Here are some cultural “gems” from our tree:

  • a “German” Christmas pickle that my husband got me for our first Christmas (that’s actually not a true German tradition but I love the pickle)
  • totally American NFL snowman cheering for husband’s favorite team
  • a Berlin Brandenburger Tor s’more snowman ornament (RANDOM! Yeah I don’t know how someone came up with that but it’s pretty special especially after the Christmas market attack there this year), and
  • American Santa riding in a NYC yellow cab.

German American Christmas Tree Ornaments

The other huge difference between a German and an American Christmas is gift giving. Back home, der Weihnachtsmann or das Christkind (Santa or Christ Child) deliver a few gifts late afternoon / early evening on Christmas Eve. We’d usually go to church and when we got back gifts would be under the tree. Of course here in the U.S. Santa Claus comes during the night before Christmas Day once everyone has gone to bed so you open your gifts and empty your stockings in pajamas on the 25th. Aaaand that’s how unflattering Christmas photos make it to Facebook. Messy bed hair, no make-up but at least a big smile (if Santa didn’t disappoint you). I get it, Santa needs time to fly from Europe to North America but watching my family open gifts while we video chat when I have to wait another whole day… ehhhhhh……

So after crowd-sourcing in one of the Germans living in the US Facebook groups we’ve decided to blend our traditions to celebrate Christmas with baby Leo like so:

Christmas Eve we’ll open gifts that are from us. They’ve been under the Christmas tree for days if not weeks by then anyway so clearly they’re not from Santa. Christmas Day we’ll check to see what Santa has left in our stockings over night (hopefully not coal!) and Leo (and maybe us, to be determined) will also find a special gift from Santa in front of the fireplace.

We'll check our stockings on Christmas Day.Excuse the fire, we won’t have one on Christmas Eves so Santa doesn’t get hot feet. Promise!

Hopefully that will also mean the kid isn’t up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa was there because he’s already received some gifts the night before but one can only hope. 😀

What are some of your Christmas traditions and how have you blended your traditions with ones from your partner’s family or new home area?

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


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Super Creative Bridal Shower

Awesome Bridal Shower

One of the American wedding traditions that we don’t have back home is a bridal shower. And then there are also  showers for expecting moms (baby showers). The original concept was to shower the (young) bride with gifts so she is ready for her own household. Granted we’re already living together so the gifts aspect was really secondary for me but I’ve always enjoyed the social aspects of showers. So I was a little on the fence as to whether or not I wanted to have one but the whole “you only have one chance in your life to have one (hopefully)” concept prevailed. My awesome U.S. based bridesmaids really hit the nail on the head in terms of how to throw the perfect bridal shower.

The girls really outdid themselves with super cute self-made decoration including tissue paper pendants, accordion photo displays, a decorated bridal chair, chalkboard calligraphy, arranged flower bouquets and then some. They had also set up stations to sign a champagne bottle where guests could leave us sweet notes for our first anniversary and with notecards for marriage advice.

Bridal Shower food and deco

The food and beverage were excellent with mimosas, infused waters, salad with bacon vinaigrette, fresh fruit, kebobs, quiche and home-made cupcakes. DELICIOUS!

We played a fun game where the ladies had to do a dare or answer questions about the bride or the bride and groom. And then as a take home party favor my bridesmaids had put together this awesome make-your-own tea bar! They had loose Ceylon, Green and Earl Grey teas as bases and then you would mix your flavor additions like orange peel and chai spices in. How creative and perfect for this tea lover!

I’m sooo glad I had a bridal shower. It was so wonderful spending girly time with everyone and it was so festive and the girls’ creativity blew me away. I’m one lucky gal!

Tea Favors for Bridal Shower

Write on a bottle for anniversary


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World Champions in A World in Shambles

The last couple of weeks have been amazing for us Germans and I was sooooooo thrilled when Mario Goetze kicked the goal that made us win the World Cup. It definitely made me want to be back home for the huge public viewing events and to celebrate in the streets. Watching the coverage in English was so odd! I feel the same way when the Olympics are on. It’s just odd to not see the athletes you are used to. Wish there was an international channel that would cover highlights from every angle. But hey, not complaining at all, at least all the games were on! As a teaser they did have Michael Ballack here as one of the co-hosts. Not sure why but it sure turned out to be a smart move to have someone from the new Weltmeister’s nation there. Well done ESPN! Ole ole ole! 😀

I watched the final game with one of my bridesmaids at a packed local pub and was adopted by a group of older British gentlemen that were kindly cheering for Germany, too. Oh the excitement! What a game! And then we won! I am still randomly squealing. Deutschlaaaaaaaand!!

And then all this is overshadowed with such sadness going on in the world. All the existing conflicts, all the new conflicts, a huge airplane being shot down, girls still being held hostage. Hearing people say they want blood and revenge. How much innocent blood has to flow before we stop fighting each other?! I really am so thankful to be living in a peaceful environment and my heart goes out to those who lost their lives, loved ones, home and safety.

World peace can be achieved when, in each person, the power of love replaces the love of power.

Sri Chinmoy

On that note, here’s a charity to consider: Soccer for Peace

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American Football & My Awesome Super Bowl Dip Recipe

Whether you love football or not, it’s hard to escape the excitement that surrounds the big NFL championship every year. Not having grown up with American football (we play football that actually involves feet back home…) lots of people are surprised by how much I have gotten into football (the American version). What started out as a game of two lines of dudes wrestling, then falling down, then getting up again only to wrestle some more has turned into something that gets me excited quite a few Sundays and even Saturdays on occasion. I love going to games and tailgating and I’ve been an avid fantasy football coach for a few season now, too. Basically, you pick players and their performance in real life gives you a score in your fantasy league. It’s really fun (or equally as agitating) playing with my friends.

Me roarrrring during a Panthers game

So, while I was sad our Carolina Panthers did not make it very far in the playoffs this season (sooo proud they made it to the playoffs at all though!), I am excited about this weekend’s match-up. We watched “The Book of Manning” (you can watch the whole Book of Manning here! How cool!) the other day and after that I am now totally rooting for the Broncos. It’d be nice for their former Panthers coach, too.

My traditional thing to bring to Super Bowl parties is my “Green Bay Packers Hot Bean Superbowl Dip”. I named it after the winners of that year’s Super Bowl… Go figure now I’m getting married to a Green Bay fan. This year I am also bringing fun bingo sheets that you can download for free here.

Sandra’s Hot Bean Super Bowl Dip

– 8oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
16oz refried beans
0.5 packages of taco seasoning
a few drops of hot sauce
2 TBS parsley
0.25 cups cut green onions
16oz Mexican shredded cheese mix

1. Heat your oven to 350F (175C)2. First mix sour cream and softened cream cheese.
2. Then mix everything except for half of the shredded cheese in.
3. Put mixture into a baking dish (I use an 8x12in dish).
4. Top with remaining half of the shredded cheese.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is starting to brown.
6. Serve with corn chips!

I always have to take a ton of lactaid to eat this but it’s sooooo good, totally worth it! Nom nom!

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