Sunday, December 21, 2014

Closed for Christmas

Can you believe there are only three (or four, depending on when and how you celebrate) days until Christmas?!? Today is a quiet Sunday - remember all stores and businesses are closed on Sundays in Germany - and we've lit our fourth Advent candle on the Adventskranz (wreath). Although I did some cleaning and laundry this morning (shhh...don't tell anyone!), I've spent most of the afternoon alternately reading and napping.

This is how my daughter and I often spend part of Sunday afternoon...
You may not be able to see them, but the books we were just reading
are on the table.

Tomorrow and Tuesday are our last days for making sure we have all the gifts, food, and drinks we need for the days of Christmas, and I'm already fearing the madness we'll face at the grocery store. Granted, many stores (including our grocery store and the local butcher) are open on Christmas Eve morning, but that is not the day I want to go shopping. I will walk to the butcher that morning to pick up our Christmas order with all the meat we'll need through Sunday, but that's not the same as shopping.

As of noon on Christmas Eve, stores here are closed. If I forgot an ingredient for any of our planned dishes, too bad for me. If we run out of something we didn't anticipate running out of, bad luck. Stores are closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day (that's December 26th, Americans), and Sunday the 28th. Can you imagine what the grocery store is going to be like on Saturday? Wild horses wouldn't lure me into that store or any other that day, and I love horses!

I am pretty sure my American readers cannot fathom living in a place where groceries are not readily available at least somewhere at any time of any day. "What if we run out of milk before we make the mashed potatoes because Aunt Ellen uses more than we expected for her coffee every morning?!" "What if Uncle Dan drinks all the beer on Christmas Eve and we've got none left for the football game on Christmas Day?!" Over here, you deal with it and do without. And there's no football (or any other sport I've aware of) on Christmas Day.

Why are stores closed on December 26th? For the same reason they're closed on Karfreitag (Good Friday), Ostermontag (Easter Monday), Dreikönigstag (Epiphany), Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day), and five other religiously important days during the year in addition to January 1st, Labor Day, and Tag der Deutschen Einheit (the Day of German Unity).

Get this -- families in Germany are encouraged and able to spend Sundays and holidays together relaxing, celebrating, or doing whatever else they want to do without being tempted by big holiday sales promising life-changing savings on items one should not even consider trying to live without. Even the poor souls who work in retail and cashiers are able - downright forced - to have these days off to spend them as they will (as long as they're not doing noisy yard work, and in some communities their neighbors will talk if they are even hanging laundry outside to dry, since one really should not do work of any kind on Sundays or holidays!). Husbands cannot be sent to the store by their wives because an item on the grocery list was forgotten, which also means they also don't have an excuse to pick up an extra case of beer.

Those working in gastronomy tell a different tale, since restaurants are generally open on Sundays and holidays - and therefore most choose a different day of the week (often Mondays) to close for the evening. This is very helpful for the rest of us, who have little else to do on Sundays and holidays than go for a hike or bike ride followed by a nice meal out, but I do feel sad for them knowing they have less family time than the rest of us.

And here's the thing, though I've said it before: I love the fact that stores are closed on Sundays and holidays in the name of family ("Family Values", anyone? You know...that phrase that's thrown around passionately in U.S. politicians' campaign speeches and mud-flinging when it suits their purpose to use it?). That means we have to plan ahead and make sure we know exactly what we need for each meal during an extended period like this week. That's not exactly a hardship.

I think it's blinking ironic that in a country where so many give lip service to "family values" (the U.S., I mean), families are lured away from home on holidays into stores to fight (fist fight, in lots of cases, particularly on Black Friday) other shoppers for the lowest prices on the current season's most popular items. The insanity of Black Friday now begins the day before - on Thanksgiving. I suppose it doesn't make any difference. A third of the country is sitting in front of their TVs watching football, another third is fast asleep in a food coma from the Thanksgiving meal (this enormous and delicious multi-course meal is usually consumed in less time than it takes an Italian to enjoy a glass of wine), so what's wrong with the rest going to work and shopping?

I guess that's one way to do a holiday.

For me, I will continue to enjoy our enforced quiet holidays and the fact that our community is basically closed for Christmas.

Frohe Weihnachten from our house to yours!

1 comment:

  1. Well done, your option was the best of them! Who wants to eat so much to explode or to fight for a tiny discount on Black Friday? Not us! :)