Germany is probably one of the best places to spend Christmas as it is one of the few countries that still definitely have traditional ways of celebrating Christmas. I personally had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with my old German friends for three times, and the German Christmas never ceases to amaze me.
A whole month of holiday spirit
The German Christmas holiday is not confined only to Christmas Day. The holiday spirit starts as early as December 1st, a process that is generally known as the Advent. Bucerius Law School students will notice it by the erection of a small yet adorable Christmas tree on campus. Although it is more likely that the students will be deep in the agony of exam preparation, the Buddy Family, a small support group consisting of alumni and doctoral candidates, usually leaves a small Advent calendar in your locker, with a small window with chocolate in it that can be opened every day until Christmas. The legendary Christmas markets also start to open at various locations in Hamburg, providing people with amazing Glühwein, a traditional German spiced holiday wine that warms you up immediately in deep winter. Other German delicacies such as Marzipan, Bratwurst (sausage) and Champignons (mushrooms) with garlic butter can also be found at a low price. For you shopping freaks, all the major shopping centers in Jungfernstieg and Mönckebergstraße will indulge your craziest Christmas shopping spree.
Lavish dinners and lazy nights
December 24th usually starts by decorating the Christmas tree, which is usually a pine tree that most Germans select from a tree farm a few days in advance. Lunch is usually skipped and there would sometimes be a church session in the afternoon, where everyone dresses up in their finest clothes and you get to see everyone in your community. The German lady-of-the-house unravels all their magic for the lavish Christmas dinner, a gigantic banquet that usually (in my case) consists of North Sea shrimp soup, walnut salad, a main course that consists of venison in red wine sauce, roasted turkey fillets, baked potato with cranberry sauce and mushrooms in rum sauce. The dessert is usually apple strudel with whipped cream. After the big meal, we usually sit around the fire-place and start to open Christmas gifts. This year, I got hand-knit Christmas socks, a coupon for the Thalia Theatre, home-made Johannesbeer jam (black currant), a big box of chocolate and a fine bottle of Hennessy cognac. Usually before we go to bed, we sing a Christmas carol and I was always requested to present a Chinese song for the occasion.
Christmas Day on December 25th is usually a lazy day, with everyone so filled with heavy Christmas food and Glühwein. There are usually some visits to close friends and relatives, but apart from that everyone just curls up in front of the fire-place like a cozy cat. This is the time we swap our life stories and talk more in-depth about our lives. This year we moved the tables, put on some old record and slow danced until the last shred of Christmas overeating was gone.
A Winter's Tale
While different households might celebrate Christmas a little bit differently, the Germans are definitely the living embodiment of holiday spirit. For an international student, I can assure you that a German Christmas is something you will remember for the rest of your life with fond nostalgia.
It is indeed, like Heinrich Heine puts it in his immortal piece "Germany. A Winter's Tale"
"By the end of the year, I shall be back
From Germany, all cured and sound,
And then I shall buy you a New Year gift,
The loveliest, that could be found."