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                                       Monday, December 23, 2013

Itzl AlertingAs you can see by Itzl's concerned look, this group is for us to check in at to let people know we are alive, doing OK, and not affected by such things as heat, blizzards, floods, wild fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, power outages, or other such things that could keep us off DKos. It's also so we can find other Kossacks nearby for in-person checks when other methods of communication fail - a buddy system. Members come here to check in. If you're not here, or anywhere else on DKos, and there are adverse conditions in your area (floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, etc.), we and your buddy are going to check up on you. If you are going to be away from your computer for a day or a week, let us know here.  We care!
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I thought some music to start off would be appropriate, so you can listen to the video with the Vienna Boys‘ Choir and other featured soloists singing German/Austrian Christmas songs while you read the rest of the diary and look at the pictures at the links.

Christmas in Vienna  - not exactly Germany, but close enough....

Boys' choirs are still very popular all over Germany, too, and there are many well-known ones, but the most famous is still the Vienna Boys' Choir.

Just the words “Christmas in Germany” conjure up visions of quaint, snow-covered villages with half-timbered houses, the Black Forest in its winter dress, famous Christmas markets, but how do we really celebrate Christmas in Germany?

My mother was German, and my father was in the US Army, so I was able to spend many Christmases with my mother’s family during our tours of duty in my childhood. Later I returned as an adult, and have been living here for a very long time. So I have spent many, many Christmases in this country.

First of all, the Germans don’t have Thanksgiving (well, they actually do, but it's not celebrated and is in October) to mark the beginning of the holiday season, so we use the First Advent to kick off the Christmas season. Celebrating the Advent involves getting (making or buying) a wreath and putting four candles on it, along with any decorations you fancy. On each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas another candle is lit, so that the fourth Advent – the last Sunday before Christmas Eve – all four candles are burning.

https://www.google.com/...

The next event is the arrival of St. Nicholas and his sidekick on December 6th, bringing goodies for the good kids’ shoes and coal for the naughty ones. It used to be common for him to visit “in person”. I recall one memorable visit when I was 6 and lived in Salzburg, Austria. St. Nicholas and Krampus – who is one scary dude! – came and Krampus scolded my sister for biting her nails! I would not recommend this if you have impressionable kids. However, he and St. Nick usually only come at night and you never see them, much like Santa Claus. I imagine the personal visits don’t happen much anymore in any case because kids are much too sophisticated these days. Anyway, Krampus is an Austrian/Alpine tradition. The German one, particularly in Bavaria, is Knecht Ruprecht, who is not as frightening. Krampus takes the cake, imo!

Some history :
http://en.wikipedia.org/...

and pics of Krampus (do not open if you get nightmares easily!) :-)
https://www.google.com/...

The less scary Knecht Ruprecht:
http://en.wikipedia.org/...

The big, culminating event is celebrated Christmas Eve. Germany is credited with having introduced the much loved Christmas tree, having started as a German tradition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly the 15th century, in which "devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes".[1]Christmas trees are hung in St. George's Church, Sélestat since 1521.[2] It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century.

Before electrical lights, people used real candles to light the tree, with a ladder and bucket of water standing nearby! Some people still do this, I suppose, and I also put real candles on my tree years ago, though they were small trees so the risk of fire was not all that high. I usually celebrate with friends these days, so I haven't bought a tree in quite a while.

https://www.google.com/...

 In the “old days”, the tree usually wasn’t set up until Christmas Eve, and the kids were shooed away to play somewhere else, while the “Christkind”, the Christ Child, decorated the tree and put out the presents. No Santa Claus – he was already here on December 6, remember? When everything was ready, one of the grown-ups would ring a bell, then we would troop into the living room and be blown away by the scene: A beautiful tree and lots of nicely wrapped gifts arranged on a table nearby, and loads of edible goodies. I guess they didn’t put the gifts under the trees because of dripping wax then.

We each got a “Weihnachtsteller”, which is a plate, usually a largish, sturdy paper plate that looks festive, full of nuts, oranges, cookies and maybe candies, but cookies are more the thing, just like in the US.

https://www.google.com/...

Then we would sing a few Christmas carols, maybe someone would read about Christ’s birth from the Bible, then we would open our presents accompanied by some appropriate music, like in the introductory video. We'd open them in turn, one at a time with everyone watching. It was more of a sharing our joy and pleasure that way.

Christmas in Germany is quite commercial, too, but I still don’t think it’s quite as consumer-driven as it is in the States. Or maybe I’m kidding myself. Of course, there are the many, many Christmas markets all over Germany, which are very popular tourist attractions. But still, it feels different.

To end this little cultural trip to Germany for Christmas, here is a video telling you about that most German of Christmas traditions, which can never be duplicated anywhere else: the Lebkuchen.

Christmas Specialties: Lebkuchen from Germany

Psst: It's a secret, but I don't really like Lebkuchen all that much!

                                    Merry Christmas, everyone!

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Translatorpro's Prolific Blog on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Itzl Alert Network.

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