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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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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I Knew It Was A Bad Day When…

…the construction workers started some annoying noise at 8am on that Sunday. But you know, I didn’t mind much because I had gone to bed quite early the day before. So after enjoying the comfort of my warm sheets for a bit longer I actually got up, drank a glass of grapefruit juice (Rich got me hooked on that after our trip to Hilton Head Island), ate a cereal bar and put my running shoes on. Yeah, crazy me went running! Hello?! America is definitely doing strange things to me. Now, you have to know, I despise jogging. It’s not something I do. At the gym I use the elliptical. I avoid the treadmill. Anyway, after an hour on the elliptical on Friday and a 5km walk with Birgit on Saturday I suddenly felt like running to Starbucks, which is 2km away. Of course I didn’t actually jog all the way to Starbucks but I did run for a total of 1.3km!! Wow Sanna! The iced latte in my hand on the way back kind of prevented me from exerting any more such stupidity on the way back and of course today I am paying the price for 3 days of torture (aka exercise): my legs are sore!
So the day went on, I was now sitting on my front steps eating Greek yoghurt with fresh blueberries and a nectarine and was using my skype phone to talk to my littlest sister and my Mom. At some point I decide it is too hot to stay outside for more than 20 minutes and want to walk back indoors. Well. The door was locked! Bloody hell! Armed with nothing but a teaspoon, a bowl, a skype phone and a half dead tomato plant I try to lockpick it. No such luck. My stupid hot neighbor’s comment that I lived in Fort Knox comes to mind and I give up and try to locate a neighbor. Of course the only one who’s home is the guy that lives at the other end of the building. Wouldn’t normally matter but I was barefoot and the sidewalk was hot.
John was super sweet though. He had to leave but gave me a key to his place, put the soccer game on his nice TV for me, let me check my mails so that I could find some phone numbers (I have very few numbers in my skype phone) and told me to make myself at home. How nice?! Well, of course that day my boss/landlord had his cell phone in his car so he never picked up in the 4 hours that I tried calling him (he apologized about 5 times this morning).
At some point I got Ash’s number from facebook and he came an hour after I called him (walking back and forth to my place to get the skype phone in range). Apparently every cool American guy has a fancy lock picking set. Unfortunately Ash isn’t professionally lockpick trained though and my lock not quite so simple. He gave his scary looking friend a call and went to pick him up and the guy tried really hard, too. But, it didn’t work. I feel really secure now! I do live in Fort Knox! So the nice guys left me alone again because they had to work. Ash was so nice and let me keep his cell phone so that the locksmith could call me back after I called him.
That guy finally came and 2 minutes and 2 air bags and some fancy lockpicking device later he had my door open and I was 155$ poorer. It takes a pro to get into Fort Knox….

So, where I was going with that story is, as soon as I noticed I had locked myself out I knew Germany was going to lose. It just felt it. *sighs* Oh well. 72 – 80 – 96 – 2010?

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Another 52€ to Fedex

Unbelievable but I finally have all the forms ready to send to my J1 sponsor after having talked to the HR girl today. Woot! So I’m gonna get up early tomorrow, dress up and put make up on and hope that the Fedex guy will be super hot – I’m thinking sexy UPS guy from that sex and the city episode where Samantha gets a delivery. Haha! Well, quite honestly, the last Fedex guy was really smelly and not looking like anything to write home about so I don’t have any hope. Well, long as my documents get to the big apple quickly I don’t care though.

Other than that, life is going well. I’m still slaving away and am supposed to cook another feast tonight. Last night was a whole roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes and tonight will be chicken frikassee so yeah never anything simple like the things I ate when my Mom still cooked. Hmpf!

Friday night however I met with my girls+Jens and we had drinks at the new local bar Zeitlos. Now I keep complaining about German waiters not checking up on how things are but the guy there really annoyed us with his “Ist alles schön?” (Is everything beautiful?) every fifteen minutes or so. He stopped that after I told him before he could ask that “Alles ist schön!”. Good times though and I can’t wait to do our Sex And The City night on Thursday. Yay!

Saturday my Mom and I hit the town and boy was I exhausted afterwards. I guess a slice of pumpkin bread (yum!) wasn’t enough to get me through a hard day of shopping.

So Sunday I relaxed and then went to my cousins to have my diploma scanned. He also gave me some cool Photoshop plugins so I need to install those at some point. Later Massimo came by to sign my visa forms and I showed him the medieval houses of my city. Damn freezing in this country so we had some hot tea and some good talks at a café afterwards.

Monday I slaved away like normal but I also got to do some nordic walking in the forrest (where it was freeeeezing) and now I’m sore but hey, that’s a good reward, right?! 🙂

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