So, I've never really been much of a "Christmas person", but I have to say it's a lot more fun when you have kids. Mia is so excited. She talks about Santa Claus constantly, has watched the Frosty the Snowman song at least a dozen times on YouTube and today got her first piece of chocolate from the Advents Calendar (this is going to be a hit for a sweet tooth like her!) We also made a (wonderfully crooked) advent's wreath together last night and then wrote Christmas cards while listening to Bing Crosby sing White Christmas. Seriously, the only thing that was missing was hot chocolate with marshmallows and a candy cane or two....
Still, there are of course differences between how Germans and Americans celebrate Christmas. Some of the differences I've known for a long time: Germans open their presents on Christmas Eve and don't have stockings. They have Christmas Eve (Heiligabend), Christmas Day and Christmas Day 2 (apparently to recover from the Christmas Goose and all the mulled wine they drank on Christmas Day number one...) But now that I'm actually celebrating Christmas here I've realized there are other even more subtle differences. I discovered these when I went out shopping with Mia for Christmas ornaments since I didn't have any (told you I'm not a Christmas person.) Here is more or less what I came back with:
When I showed them to Jasper he said: "Oh no, not those! Those are SO spiessig!" Spiessig is a hard word to translate, but I would say the closest definition would be by combining dorky, uptight and bourgeoise into one word.
"Wie bitte? Christmas balls are spiessig?" Garish maybe, especially since Mia picked them out and so they were purple and gold paired together with red tin foil. But spiessig? I tried to get him to explain to me why, because in my mind they are pretty much standard, but the best he could come up with was "They just are." I had also bought some of these straw ornaments which are typical in Germany.
"What about these?" I asked him. "Are they also spiessig?"
"No, those are ok," he told me.
We talked about it again today and how funny it is that when you're from a different culture you sometimes don't make the same assumptions. Jasper is even less of a Christmas person than I am, yet he has certain opinions about things that I found surpring, for example, that ornaments should always be wooden.
"The worst and most spiessig of all is when people have electric candles on their tree."
Wie bitte? "Do you seriously mean that people should have real lit candles on their tree? Isn't that a pretty hardcore fire hazard?"
"Oh sure," my non-Christmas loving husband answered. "There are lots of fires every year."
So I've learned a few things so far this jolly holiday season:
Number one: there is little chance of talking my husband into getting these electric candles with a convenient remote control.
Number two: we are still not putting real lit candles on our tree because I think I'd rather not burn the house down, thank you very much.
Number three: we are most definitely hanging stockings with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon will be there.
What can I say? Christmas traditions are truly diehard, even for two Scrooges like us!