One German Advent tradition or ritual is the Adventskranz. We bought ours last weekend at the Horb Christmas market. It's important to buy it before the first Sunday of Advent, though Martin found out two years ago that if one waits until the Monday after, they are a lot cheaper... As far as I know, in the U.S. the lighting of the Advent wreath is only done in churches, where every Sunday another candle is lit. Here most families have one somewhere in their home.
On the second Sunday of Advent, the second candle is lit, and so on.
The Adventskalender is quite popular here, too. Our grocery store was exploding with Adventskalender (especially the ones with a piece of chocolate behind every door) in the last days of November, and again, on about the 2nd or 3rd of December, they can be purchased at a reduced price (but seriously, suck it up and buy it on time). Something is missing if a home doesn't have at least one Adventskalender - one per child, in homes with children.
The wooden Weihnachtspyramide is a favorite decoration, the best of them being made in the Erzgebirge region. They come in all sizes and colors, and when the candles are lit, the poor little Holy Family gets spun around to the point that, if they were real, they'd be wretching for sure. It's best not to think about that too much and just enjoy the action.
|At the Konstanz Weihnachtsmarkt last year, selecting the Weihnachtspyramide my parents bought me for Christmas.|
My favorite part of this season is Weihnachtsmärkte, or Christmas markets. I can't get enough of them. I've been to three so far this season, and I'll be going to five more between now and Dec. 23. The best one in these parts is unquestionably the one in Esslingen with its traditional section and the Mittelalterlichen Weihnachtsmarkt. Two-hour long TV programs have been produced about the Esslingen Christmas market, and rightly so. It's truly something to behold.
|at the Esslinger Weihnachtsmarkt|
|wood carvings in Stuttgart|
|enjoying a Glühwein and Kinderpunsch at the Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt|
In the evenings the Weihnachtsmärkte take on a new atmosphere as the sky darkens and the lights add a romantic aura to the scene. This is the Weihnachtsmarkt in Konstanz on the Bodensee (Lake Constance).
Some of the smaller Christmas markets, like the one in Horb, are open just for a weekend. Those appeal mainly to the locals, as it's a nice place to meet friends at the Feuerzangenbowle, hear the local youth entertain with singing and playing instruments, and support local venders. The bigger, more well-known ones are open every day from the end of November until shortly before Christmas.
The markets are outside without shelter. If it's raining, which it often is in December in Germany, you have to dodge umbrellas and make sure you don't impale anyone with yours. If it's snowing and blowing, you better bundle up. Other than the recent hurricane that blew through northern Germany, weather doesn't stop Weihnachtsmärkte or people from visiting them.
I have loved the Advent and Christmas season in Germany ever since my first December trip here. I hope the wonder of the season doesn't fade for me over the years, and it shouldn't. The things that sometimes ate away at my Christmas cheer in Wisconsin - driving on snowy, icy roads, shoveling multi-feet of snow before driving to school or after returning, having to prepare lessons and grade homework, and shopping in over-crowded stores due to holiday sales - just aren't issues for me any more. There is just something special about the old world holiday traditions here that I wish all of my American friends could experience.
Happy Holidays, Frohe Weihnachten, and Joyeux Noël!