From Christkind to Neujahr

9 Dec

I spent two weeks in Germany during my school’s winter break two years ago. My aunt, uncle and two cousins live there in a town called Unterleinleiter which is 26 miles outside of Nuremberg. We stayed through New Year. Interestingly, there is more than one Christmas tradition in Germany. The original tradition of Christkind, meaning Christ-child, is in a competition of sorts with Weihnachtsmann, or Santa Claus. Christkind is portrayed as a young blonde child who brings the gifts on December 6th. For a large part, Weihnachtsmann and secularized Christmas is becoming the dominant holiday, but some signs are still covered in Christkind advertising. A big part of winter in Germany is Gluhwein, which is a mulled warmed wine with spices in it. Interestingly, many towns in Germany are in valleys, separated by large tracts of empty land. Because fireworks are legal in Germany, a big part of Neujahr, or New Year, for my cousins is a battle of fireworks. The valley they live in divides loosely down the middle, and the two sides try to outdo the other side with fireworks. My youngest cousin, who was 7 at the time, was still awake for it. They tended to eat much later than we do here, sometimes not starting dinner until 10 o’clock, which is why my youngest cousin stayed up so late. Lunch also tended to be more of a snack than a meal, and it was sometimes skipped. Breakfast was usually bread or croissants with some sort of spread on it. For most German families, there would be meat involved in that meal, however all but my uncle are vegetarian. Obviously the biggest difference was the change of drinking age. My cousins, who are both around my age, drank beer fairly regularly, and were consequently confused as to why I didn’t drink. It was much healthier than the binge drinking favored by teenagers in America, because it’s legal and they can drink smaller amounts more often instead of trying to down it all at once. Simply being there, in such a different culture that is so much older than our own, made me want to visit again, hopefully more than once. Therefore, I figured learning German would be useful and a fun way to connect with my cousins.

KS

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