Through the rose tinted glasses of my childhood, Christmas in Germany seemed like the best thing on earth. A place where the cobblestones and medieval towns of fairy tales met with a month of pure festivity as snowy nights filled with rich hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, and as many candied nuts as we could eat.
I find myself back in Germany at the start of the holiday season, and I can say with full confidence that my attraction to this country’s celebration was more than childhood memories romanticized. Christmas in Germany is something special. Take for instance yesterday, December 6th, the special holiday of Nikolaus Tag. Children all over Germany clean their shoes the night before, putting them outside the door (as I did growing up). The next morning, the shoes are filled to the brim with chocolates, oranges, and little trinkets—special Christmas treats to start the holidays. The advent calendar here is treated with reverence, from the candle-decked holiday wreath inside churches to the candy-filled paper version sold at every grocery store. And from the first weekend in December, the Christmas markets light up city’s both small and large; more then 50 markets have taken over Berlin’s squares and boulevards, not as a tourist attraction but something thoroughly and completely enjoyed by the locals. Giant trees, nativities, pyramids, and nutcrackers can be found everywhere.
Walk through the carnival-like Alexanderplatz market during a weekday and you’ll see business men enjoying champignon for lunch while Berlin’s mothers entertain their children on mini ferris wheels and roller coasters. At the more beautiful but just as crowded Gendarmenmarkt, cloaked entry guards help lend a historical flair, while artisans offer handmade goods. Nearby our new home in the Prenz Lauerberg neighborhood, the Kulturbrauerei market is a very locals affair. It’s small size is outweighed by authentic flavor, with a Scandanavian/Saint Lucia theme offering food and drink from Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
With endless options for food—pommes, bratwurst, fluffy latkes with lox, stewed green kale with ham, fluffy pizza with bacon and cream sauce, plus the sweet crêpes, waffles, candied nuts, and roasted chestnuts—we could go to a market every night and never get tired. And no matter how cold it gets, there is always a glass of warm gluhwein or hot chocolate to drink. Germany is beautiful in the summer and fall, but I am so lucky to have come now, my favorite time of all.
*Some exciting holiday news to share, I’ve been nominated for FriendsEAT.com’s 2012 Best Food Blogger in the Recipe category. Please vote for my page by clicking the “love” button here http://friendseat.com/lavitacucinare*