Friday, 13 December 2013

The Holly and the Rachel

Hint: the title makes more sense if sung to the tune of 'The Holly and the Ivy'...

So, it's December now. Time to officially break out the Christmas music and drink Glühwein like there's no tomorrow. (Let's pretend I haven't been doing that for weeks already.) Germans do Christmas in a big way, and I won't deny that this was the time of year that I was most looking forward to spending in this country. So far, I've had quite a few Christmassy experiences, which began rather early, considering the school's orchestra started rehearsing their Christmas pieces in September! It even inspired me to download a CD of German traditional Christmas carols. (I'm listening to it right now actually.) I have also been taking every opportunity to purchase all the Christmassy foody goodness in the supermarkets!
Tastefully arranged Christmas foodstuffs. (That house thing is filled with Lebkuchen.) Mmmmmm....
A particularly exciting German tradition that I have discovered since coming here is BAKING. I'm not talking about your standard Christmas cake. Everyone here is crazy about Plätzchen, which are special German Christmas biscuits that everyone seems to bake about a million of around the beginning of December. The Reichelts have about 20 tubs of them, and the mum took a special day off work so they could spend the whole day baking! Now that's commitment. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a Backparty (baking party) hosted by a couple of the teachers from my school, and we spent the whole time rolling out dough and going crazy with the cookie cutters. Yum! Although sadly my attempt to explain the concept of mince pies drew nothing but blank looks (possibly due to my lack of appropriate vocabulary...).

But the most exciting thing (by far) has been the much-anticipated visit from my appropriately-festively-named friend, Holly, which I had been looking forward to for weeks.

A few minor setbacks occurred on the day of her arrival, namely Holly's delayed flight and the perilous combination of giant puddle and passing lorry that resulted in me getting thoroughly drenched (not to mention pointed and laughed at!) on the way to the station to go and pick her up from Hanover. However, these paled into insignificance compared to my gleeful excitement as I waited for her at the airport. I'm pretty sure our joyful reunion at the arrivals gate would have been enough to convince Scrooge of the merits of love and Christmas cheer, or at the very least earn us a place in the final scene of 'Love Actually'.

The next day (6th December, a.k.a. Nikolaustag in German land) we headed off to Lemgo's one-weekend-only Christmas market, Kläschen, but not before discovering makeshift paper Stiefel (boots) on the doorstep, filled with chocolate and goodies courtesy of the lovely Reichelts (I mean, ahem, Nikolaus).
Makeshift paper Stiefel filled with goodness. (Also, yes that is knitting wool...)
When we arrived at the actual market, it was evident that we were super early (keen beans that we are!) and it was mostly still being set up for the day. Undeterred, we headed to the Eiswelt (ice rink) and took advantage of the lack of people, which meant we could skate gracefully and/or flail wildly across the ice without the danger of injuring passing children or embarrassing ourselves (too much). It even snowed while we were skating (!!!) and led to much excited squealing on our part, and much indifference from the Germans. (These people just don't seem to get excited about snow! It saddens me...)
Appropriate levels of snow-related excitement.
Afterwards, we warmed up in a café with a chai latte and a nice game of German monopoly (Holly thrashed me. It was awful.), before taking another wander around the market in its fully festive glory. Of course, the highlight of the experience was all the foody/drinky goodness we were able to sample, namely the ever-present Glühwein, and a hitherto-unknown-to-me delicacy, Poffertjes (like tiny pancake puffs sprinkled with sugar - the best!).

It was certainly nice to see good old Lemgo in its Sunday best, decked out with quaint little huts selling all the foody goodness you could desire (plus plenty of drink-related goodness as well!), and assorted handicrafts, not to mention a bizarre array of canned goods, hideous Spongebob Squarepants hats, and JML-esque kitchen apparatus. It wasn't anything particularly spectacular though. At least, not for Germany! It seems like every town here has a Christmas market. OK, so there are markets in the UK too, but we totally stole this idea from the Germans!

One of my favourite markets so far has to be the Bielefeld one (well, to be fair it's the only really decent-sized one I've properly seen, but still). I went there last Monday with some other assistants, and visited again with Holly on Saturday night.
Part of the food court area - here we had some sort of Glühwein/Punsch/-bowle thing with lots of sugar in it. Lecker!
I have to say, I am loving the festive décor here. It's enough to give anyone the warm fuzzies. Nonetheless, I do miss Christmassy stuff from home, namely carol services (pretty sure they do them here too but I haven't been to one... Besides, they'd all be in German, which is clearly not as good!), Costa Christmas drinks (who'd have thought I'd miss working there!) and putting out all the old Farmer family Christmas stuff round the house. Holly did bring me mince pies though, which is easing the pain a little! Besides, I'll be home in ONE WEEK!!!

Ich freu mich riesig drauf!


  1. Umm there WERE carolers.. you are leaving out the part where all the little Knaben sang songs of praise to St Nikolaus!