November 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

After the excitement of the conference and the whirlwind activity of Thanksgiving we’re enjoying a quiet weekend of hanging at home and simple errands. Tomorrow is Sunday before December, which in Germany is the first Advent day. I’m not so well-versed on the religious history (something Catholic, I think) but you light one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on. Family and friends come by and there are coffee and cookies. It’s nice.

Soon we will have to get a tree and try to find a spot for it in our living room, which now has all our California furniture. Ralf will pretend we’re not getting a tree this year and I will half believe him and bug him about it and one day he’ll just come home with one. We will decorate it together with the same decorations we’ve used since before K was born. We will play Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and drink tea and eat cookies. The kids will fight over the fragile ornaments and at least one will get broken. I will sneak off to my computer to check my email every few minutes. Ah, Christmas!

We have other Christmas traditions. For example, we invite all our friends over for Christmas coffee sometime in December. This year was hard to organize because we’re going to Ireland for a company Christmas party but now the date is set. I will make egg salad sandwiches with extra dill because Gesine likes them and Irish stew and everyone will bring their mom’s Christmas cookies (German Christmas cookies are pretty elaborate and no one in our generation knows how to make them). We will crack hilarious jokes about the relatively lame excuses Ollie's girlfriend uses not to show on such occassions. Chances are Kaye will come by to play and I’ll invite her mom over as well, who after spontaneous invitations on L’s birthday and Thanksgiving probably thinks we do nothing but cook for twenty people every night.

We will also visit the Weihnachtsmarkt, which is the Munich Christmas market. Actually there are several in Munich and they offer live music, handmade decorations, various delicious foods and hot drinks and other things of that kind. Each has it's own specialty, like the Flammbrot (flat bread with cream cheese, ham and chives) at Sendlingertor. It’s one of the nicest things about living in Munich.

On Christmas Eve we’ll go to Ralf’s parents for coffee then dinner (meat fondue with 12 sauces) and after dinner Ralf and his mom will play Christmas songs on the piano - badly, but that’s part of the tradition. Then I will play my one Christmas song, 'Greensleeves', which for some reason I can play perfectly with two hands and everything. Greensleeves is the last lonely remnant of my expensive musical education. Then there will be champagne and presents, mostly for the girls, who will be overwhelmed after the first three. Later a couple of Ralf’s best friends whose families don’t do a big Christmas Eve celebration will come by and they will drink and talk about old times. I won’t be able to contribute much – they’ve all known each other for more than twenty years and I wasn’t there the night Ralf stole the car or got drunk and fell down the hill into the poison ivy. But that’s OK because I usually crash and burn by 11 anyway.

On Christmas morning we’ll go for a brisk winter frog march after breakfast, which I will pretend to enjoy but not really fool anyone. There’s a German word for people like me: ‘Warmduscher’, which means ‘someone who takes warm showers.’ In a land where 19 degrees Celsius is considered acceptable swimming temperature this is a fairly insulting thing to call someone and in some situations may be considered fighting words. I prefer the term ‘LA girl’ but it hasn’t really caught on.

After traipsing up and down the winter landscape and getting plenty of fresh winter air into our lungs we’ll head home to relax, which means that Ralf and I will collapse on the sofa and the girls will climb all over us and giggle. It will be annoying and divine.

Another Christmas. We are blessed.


  1. Such a great post. I love the way traditions evolve, and the way when you don't have kids it's just the things you do, but when the children arrive you have to do it that way every year or else. Children make the traditions concrete.

    We enjoyed the first Advent yesterday with a big bunch of friends round for coffee and cake. So much fun.

    Oh, and I am a Warmeduscher too! I am happy to walk, but prefer to do it in temperate climes.

  2. Ashton woke up this morning and opened her advent calendar before I got up. She was smart enough to open the one that was a game (at least I think it's a game, not really sure) vs. the one with chocolate which she will insist to have tonight.

    Last year my mother forgot to send the calendars and had to FedEx them, this year they arrived in October.

  3. We're instituting a new tradition this year at the kids request: fondue for Christmas Eve dinner. I figure the hilarity combined with the carbs will render them mostly comatose in time for church services at 9. Any suggestions from your traditional "meat with 12 sauces"?

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