Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas Eve

Here's something surprising about German customs that I've only just discovered: the main event of Christmas over here is the evening of 24th December ('Weihnachten' or 'Holy Night'). For them, 25th December is simply the 'first day of Christmas' and is a day for visiting friends and family.

On Weihnachten festivities begin in the late afternoon with the opening of gifts. Depending on the region of Germany, people either believe that gifts are brought by 'Christkind' (a fair-haired angel) or a figure called 'der Weihnachtsmann' (who looks more like our Father Christmas).

After presents have been unwrapped it is time for a hearty dinner - traditionally carp. Many families conclude the evening by attending a midnight Christmas Mass.

I often wondered how Father Christmas managed to deliver presents to the whole world in the early hours of 25th - now I know that he has der Weihnachtsmann and Christkind to help him and those guys start a bit earlier. It's that age old method of getting things done: team work!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Medieval Christmas Market

The Medieval Christmas Market of Cologne - a little montage of photos for your viewing pleasure. You might notice that the photos are a bit above my usual standard. So I'll admit it now. Simon took them, not me.

This market is a cut above because the traders have to dress up in ye olde cloaks and hats and there is an element of traditional culture here: one can see plays being acted out in old German. When we were there we saw a play which involved a pale man being pulled along in a cart - apparently the embodiment of 'Winter'; a real donkey, which hardly needs description; a slightly crazed lady wearing a pretend fox around her neck; and a hotchpotch of excitable peasant folk waving flaming torches and playing whistles. It was quite thrilling! Sadly, you will have to imagine this as we were too dumbfounded by the spectacle to realise we should be recording it for posterity.

You will notice though, that Simon did take a lot of photos of food stalls. Like the olde risotto stall...

Monday, 3 December 2007

More market marvellousness

hatsWe went to a couple of the Christmas markets with friends yesterday.

We didn't let a little bit of drizzle (more like an all-day downpour) stop us having fun.

If ever you find yourself at a German Christmas market I suggest you follow these six simple steps to get the authentic experience:

Sampling the mulled wine1) Annoy stall holders by manhandling the goods: play with the puppets and model the hats.

2) Eat sausage based savoury junk food.

3) Eat chocolate based sweet junk food shortly after step 2.

4) Wash goods consumed in steps 1 and 2 down with a glühwein.

5) Feel a bit ill.

6) Go to play with toys and hats again.
There were quite a lot of wooden toys for sale.

Here are some wooden puppets entertaining tourists with their motor cycle display skills.

Not exactly friendly looking are they? In particular the puppets on the left who have blue irises and no pupils. Ice cold.

I must say though, that if the puppets are scary, at least the rubbish bins go out of their way to look cute and appealing.

Even the bins are quaintObserve the gingerbread style bin on the right hand side of this next photo.

It's raining this afternoon and looks set for the rest of the day so guess what I am planning to do later? That's right - I'm going to the Christmas markets again! Well, it would be rude not to eh?