Christmas in Germany

One more year the season of joy, celebration and forgiveness has arrived to Germany. Since the end of November, most of the streets are decorated with colorful lights as well as with lovely, traditional Christmas markets all around the country. The smell of Glühwein (traditional mulled wine) goes across the cities reminding us that it is time to look back, be grateful and share our time with our loved ones.

Since the beginning of the advent, people in Germany are getting ready to celebrate this period of the year with their families and friends. But, how do Germans celebrate Christmas? Do they have any special tradition? Let’s find it out!

Most relevant days

As well as many other European citizens, including Spaniards, Germans like to celebrate both Heiligenabend (Christmas eve) and Weihnachten (Christmas Day) with their loved ones. In most of the cases, family members get together to decorate the Christmas tree, to cook tasty traditional meals and to attend to midnight mass. Another important German tradition is to place all the Christmas presents under the Christmas tree.

The second day of Christmas, Saint Stephen´s Day, is a public holiday here in Germany. For many people, the 26th of December is a quiet occasion spent with friends or family to recover and to get ready for the winter sales, which start the third day of Christmas. Saint Stephen´s Day is also a good occasion to attend with the family to a special church service on behalf of this saint.

Another important day during Christmas time is New Year´s Eve, known here as Silvester. Unlike in Spain, this is a day to spend with close friends who are mostly invited to enjoy a home-made meal, often in the form of a buffet.

While in Spain we like to spend the last day of the year surrounded by our relatives, here in Germany most of the people prefer to celebrate it by hosting home parties or by attending to any New Year´s Eve Party. Does this mean that we Spaniards do not celebrate the entrance to the new year? Of course we do! However, we still follow the ancient traditions of eating 12 grapes at midnight with our loved ones before attending with our close friends to any new year´s event. A totally different way to celebrate, don´t you think?

Food

In terms of food, Germans know how to celebrate this season sitting around a table full of delicious meals. Depending on the Christmas day they like to eat different kind of products.

A traditional Christmas Eve´s meal consists of carp or salmon accompanied by fried potatoes, sauerkraut, sausage and potato salad.

On Christmas day, Germans do like to start the day enjoying a variety of sweet snacks such as Plätzchen(biscuits covered in sugar), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Stollen(bread filled with dried fruit and marzipan) and Spekulatius(cookies flavored with cinnamon and other spices). Despite all the edible goodies during the day, they always have some room for a traditional Christmas Dinner. As a main dish, German families usually enjoy a roasted goose, turkey or duck, served with red cabbage and followed by a classic post-goose sweet such a pudding. Could you imagine yourself eating so much on Christmas day? At the beginning I was a bit shocked by this “all day eating” tradition.

In Spain, the 25th of December is the perfect occasion to spend time with the family while enjoying a huge meal consisting of seafood, traditional cold meat such as jamón or chorizo, lamb or hake, fruit andturrón (a confection made of almonds, honey, sugar and egg white and usually shaped into a rectangular tablet). Furthermore, as a country of wine producers, this beverage plays an important role during Christmas celebrations. In Germany, however, people prefer to accompany their meals with Sekt (sparkling wine) or champagne.

To celebrate the last dinner of the year, Germans enjoy preparing authentic homemade traditional recipes such as Sauerkraut, marinated herrings, potato salad, raclette and fondue. Silvester is traditionally full of activities such as playing games like “Bleigießen”, eating Berliner doughnuts, attending to mass, watching the popular English-language sketch “Dinner for one” or drinking Feuerzangenbowle. Midnight is marked by fireworks, toasts with champagne and best wishes and followed by a traditional midnight soup. In contrast to Spain, Silvester is mostly celebrated with friends either attending to public parties or preparing nice homemade meals.

Christmas presents

As in many other countries, Christmas presents in Germany are shared during the night of the 24th of December, so that people can open them either after dinner or the morning after. In many Catholic families they are told that the Christ Child gave the presents, however, in protestant families are told that Father Christmas or Santa Claus brought them.

Although Santa Claus is becoming really popular in Spain, we still like to keep our Christmas traditions. For us, the night of the 5th of January is a magical one, because the Three Wise Men come from a faraway country to make our wishes come true. When the night falls and everybody sleeps, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar visit every single Spanish dwelling delivering all the desired presents.

Despite the different traditions, both, Germans and Spaniards, we like to organize family gatherings and to spend time with our loved ones, who may are far from us the rest of the year. Ok, it is true that this season is partly about giving and receiving gifts as well as cooking and eating tasty homemade meals. However, the real meaning of Christmas is similar in both cultures. This season is a good opportunity to look back and be grateful for all the things in life that we are fortunate to have.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2018!

Christmas in Germany – The importance of the Glühwein

Mulled wine Glühwein

Christmas time is not complete in Germany without drinking a glass of Glühwein, the traditional warm spiced mulled wine every merrymaker enjoy as they walk along the charming Christmas markets. But, what does exactly “Glühwein” means? And, more important, which are the ingredients?

Glühwein

“Glühwein” means “glowing wine” and, apparently, its name comes from the hot irons that were formerly used for mulling (these hot irons are not longer used).

Although the most common glühwein is made with red wine, some marketers also serve “Weißer Glühwein”, which is made with white wine.

The recipe

Glühwein is usually made with wine, which is heated up and spiced with Glühweingewürze (cinnamon, cloves, star anise, sugar and orange juice or lemon). Sometimes people add a shot of liquor. That kind of drink is known as Glühwein mit Schuss.

Another variant of Glühwein is the “Feuerzangenbowle” (Fire Tongue Bowl). The recipe is the same as for the “regular” Glühwein, but for this drink a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drip into the Glühwein.

A bit of history

The historic origins of Glühwein date back to when wine started going bad, but germans did not want to throw it, so they added some spices to drink it again.

The oldest documented Glühwein dates from 1420 and it is attributed to a German nobleman (Count John IV of Katzelnbogen), the first grower of Riesling grapes of the world.

Where you can find it?

Mulled wine GlühweinAs I previously mentioned, christmas time in Germany is not complete without drinking a glass of Glühwein at the christmas markets.

Glühwein is usually served in a limited edition ceramic mug. Inscribed on it you can find the name of the German city where you are, the current year and a christmas draw.

A glass of Glühwein costs around 3€ + Pfand (a small additional fee). If you want to keep the cute little mug as a souvenir of your visit to a particular Christmas market, you will lose the fee, if not they will give it back to you as soon as you return the mug.

How should you drink the Glühwein?

To be honest the purpose of drinking Glühwein is to warm people from the inside out, so I highly recommend you to drink it really warm. Once the Glühwein is cold it lose some of its charm and it can´t accomplish its main purpose. 😉

Furthermore, it is really common to drink a Glühwein while enjoying some traditional german specialities such as “Lebkuchen” (gingerbread), “Reibekuchen” (potato pancakes) or “Bratwurst” (sausage).

You still have time enough to enjoy this magic drink because the christmas markets are opened until the 23th of December, and they never run out of Glühwein ;).

If you are willing to visit any christmas in the NRW (Northe Rhine Westphalia) region in Germany click here to find more information about them.

Now it is your turn. Have you ever tried Glühwein? Which one do you preffer, red or white? Could you recommend a nice christmas market in Germany?

 

The eastern Netherlands trip

This week we are traveling to… The Netherlands!


Nijmegen

This dutch city is really different to the others in the country due to two important facts:

  • The city without channels: When people think about the Netherlands, they tend to imagine cities full of tulips and channels. Although there are no channels across the city, Nijmegen is located close to the Waal river (a tributary river of our beloved Rhein).
  • There are slopes: Yes, the visitor can go up- and downhill. Furthermore, the visitor can go to the top of the old tower to have a nice view from the whole city.

The old town maintain its charm, although the allied shelled it during the IIWW (it is said they did it accidentally). A good example of its charm is the Grote Markt, where it is easy to find a lot of people having a walk around. I recommend you to get lost in its narrow streets, to enjoy how the fishermen work and to try regional food (highly recommended if you like to eat fish).

Venlo

It is different from other cities I have already visited in the Netherlands. Its old buildings are mixed with new structures providing this place with an special atmosphere.

If you like shopping Venlo is the place to be. The old town is full of stores. Lots of well known brands have their own place here, that is the reason why it is  so common to see germans crossing the border just to go shopping to this town and to its famous outlet (located outside the city). A paradise for shopalcoholics!

I hope you enjoyed the trip!! 

#lifeisanamazingtrip

Subway & Art in Düsseldorf

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Last weekend it was the official opening of the new subway´s lines in Düsseldorf, that is the reason why I decided to have a look and tell you more about it

As you can imagine the city hall prepared a huge celebration: music, beer, activities for children…

Maybe most of you are wondering why I am talking about a subway line. Well, the truth is that these new lines are planned since 15 years ago and it took so long to build them because each from their 6 stops were created by a different artist. Which means that each stop has its own personality.

Every stop is work of art. Some of them are created to make us to forget that we are using a public transport, others are thought to make us feeling in the space and the are also stops that interact with us thanks to LED screens.

Following you can find an article from the NY Times to get more information about this modern and new line.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/20/arts/design/art-and-3-d-magic-in-a-german-subway.html

During the opening day we could find out more information about the new lines and we could take the subway for free. Here you have a picture with all the new information to do not miss a subway 😉

 

 

5 tips to celebrate carnival

carnival cologne germany

Do you remember I have already talked to you about the fifth season of the year? Yes, carnival is back!! Here I give you a couple of tips so you do not miss anything during the next five days.

When to start the celebration

The Thursday of carnival, also known as Weiberfastnacht, at 11.11h. The first thing you should make at exactly 11.11 is the following:

  • Grab a beer (Kölsch, Alt, etc…)
  • Choose the Berliner you wanna eat
  • Say out loud: Alaaf!! Helau!! (remember the word changes depending on which city you are living in)

Question: Why carnival starts at 11.11h?            

There are many theories about this topic. One of the most famous is related to christian symbology. According to it the number 11 is an incomplete and a sinful number. So from that moment (11.11h) until Ash Wednesday people should celebrate and party, because after Ash Wednesday day it starts Lent time. The period of Lent is the time of purification, illumination and fasting that precedes Eastern.

What to wear 

Some germans have a different costume for each day. Other people they just have a different costume for each year. No matter how, the only important thing is to be dressed up.
carnival cologne germany
Question: What should I wear during the Weiberfastnacht to go to the office?

The official day of women people should go dressed up to the office!! (in most of the companies). But a good costume is not enough. Men must wear a tie so that women can cut it. I am sure that many of you are wondering; why should women cut ties? Easy. The thursday of carnival is traditionally the women´s day. Women are the leaders of the city during that day. According to a research made by the NRW history institute the tie is a status symbol of masculine power and to cut it represents the equality between both genders. Personal tip: Wear an old one during Weiberfastnacht day 😉

Eating and drinking

I think this part of the celebration is also clear in your minds: Beer and sausages.

Lyrics

I would recommend you to google so you can check what to sign, how, when and where. Here I show you a list of music groups who sing popular carnival songs so you can start checking them ;):

Höhner: http://www.karnevalslieder.de/Hoehner/Hoehner.php

Bläck Föös: http://www.karnevalslieder.de/BlackFoeoess/BlaeckFoeoess.php

Kolibris: http://www.karnevalslieder.de/Kolibris/Kolibris.php

Willy Millowitsch: http://www.karnevalslieder.de/Karnevalskuenstler/WillyMillowitsch.php

Monday

Rosenmontag parade took place for the first time in 1823. Since then, a carnival committee decides  every year which would be the carnival theme, according to that decision each troupe must build up its float and costumes for the whole carnival time.

carnival cologne germany

Question: When and where to enjoy the parade?

I recommend you to go to Köln, because its parade is the most famous in Germany, although each city has its own parade. Here I show you a few links where to find more information about schedules and parades. Do not forget to bring a huge bag to collect lot of candies!!

http://www.koelnerkarneval.de/

http://www.karneval-in-duesseldorf.de/

http://www.karneval-in-bonn.de/start/index.html

http://www.oche-alaaf.com/

 

Alaaf!!! Helau!!!

Carnaval carnaval!

Da simmer dabei! Dat es prima! VIVA COLONIA!
Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
wir glauben an den lieben Gott und han auch immer Durst

 

 Bienvenido al Carnaval!!!

La quinta estación del año ya ha llegado!! Mientras muchos países están acabando de celebrar la Navidad y otros aún no se han puesto a ello, nosotros estamos inmersos en el mundo del Carnaval.

En realidad llevamos ya una par de meses celebrando esta fiesta. Como ya os conté en Febrero, el Carnaval comienza el 11 del 11 a las 11 horas 11 minutos. En ese momento se deja de trabajar (sobre todo en Köln) y se cantan canciones mientras se comen Berliner y se bebe cerveza.

Otro dato importante es el disfraz. El 11 de Noviembre hay que ir disfrazado a la oficina, ya que a partir de las 11.11 la gente sale a la calle a celebrar el comienzo de esta gran fiesta.

El mes de Diciembre es más tranquilo por la llegada del adviento y la Navidad. Pero una vez pasadas estas fiestas el Carnaval vuelve con más fuerza que nunca!

 

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Aquí va un poco de vocabulario importante para esta fecha tan destacada:

 

Berliner

La tradición de las Berliner es muy rica y tentadora. Bollos rellenos de mermelada de fresa o chocolate que nos invitan a comerlos, pero… cuidado!! entre todas las Berliner hay una  rellena de mostaza!! Así que hay que seleccionar bien que Berliner vamos a comer para evitar sorpresas ;).

Karneval Sitzung

Son fiestas privadas organizadas por las distintas comparsas donde diversos grupos de música tocan conocidas canciones de carnaval y monologuistas cuentan historias divertidas. Estas Sitzungen suelen durar cuatro o cinco horas (desde las 20.00 hasta la 1.00 am) y son muy divertidas! Además de una buena forma de aprender Kölsch (el dialecto de Köln).

Kölsch

La cerveza típica de Colonia (Y la bebida por excelencia en estos días)

Weiberfastnacht

El día de las mujeres, os acordáis? Eso mismo! Este día nos toca cortar corbatas y salir a celebrarlo!!

Rosenmontag

Último día de Carnaval.. snifff… Pero para que no decaiga el ánimo los alemanes celebran una gran cabalgata donde todas las comparsas se pasean por la ciudad tirando caramelos a los niños mientras suena nuestra querida música típica de carnaval.

Alaaf!! Alaaf!! Helau!! Helau!!

No pararéis de decirlo cada vez que os crucéis con alguien por la calle!! En realidad habría que decir “Kölle Alaaf” (colonia es de todos) aunque hoy en día con decir Alaaf nos entendemos  😉 Helau es la versión que tenéis que decir en Düsseldorf, no las mezcléis.. 🙂

 

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Y ahora… A celebrarlo!!!!!