Monday, December 21, 2015

The Storm before the Calm

It's Christmas week! Although it's warm like autumn here with no snow in sight - which is totally fine by me! - we're making final preparations for our small Christmas celebration. The tree is up and decorated (American tradition - do it early so you can enjoy it longer!), the Advent wreath's fourth candle was lit last night, the nativity scene is arranged though Baby Jesus is in the drawer with the remote controls until Christmas Eve (why that drawer? So we don't forget where we stashed Him), the meat has been ordered, the outside icicle lights are up and on a timer to turn on every morning and evening, most of the presents are wrapped, and the stockings are hung.

I believe I have all the groceries we need for the next two weeks except for what I'll get from our vegetable guy tomorrow evening and the meat I'll pick up at the butcher. But today I did have to go to the grocery store one last time for a few additional things.

What a ZOO!!!

Monday is always somewhat busy at the store because it's closed every Sunday and people are getting ready for the next week. But today was even worse - I barely found a parking space - because of what's coming at the end of the week.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, the store is open until 14:00 (2:00 pm). It will re-open the following Monday. That's right - the grocery store is closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day (the 2nd Day of Christmas), and on the 27th because stores are always closed on Sundays here.

I've said it before - I really like it that the stores are closed and even the employees - all the employees - can spend the holiday time with their families. Sure, it can be inconvenient for us, like last year when I forgot to buy the pork roast that was to be dinner on New Year's Day and only realized this 20 minutes after the stores closed on New Year's Eve. M foraged around in the freezer and found four duck legs, and we had a wonderful meal anyway - trying out a new recipe besides!

the Barbarie Entenkeule that should have been a roast

Everyone has to plan ahead around the holidays and stock up on the things one can't do without, like coffee, milk, bread... I've made a list and checked it thrice, and this morning I went to the store along with the entire rest of the community. Shopping carts everywhere, grannies and their mates trudging along very, very slowly, younger people half pushing, half leaning on their carts while diddling with their cell phones, temporarily abandoned carts blocking shelves everywhere, employees stocking shelves and pulling huge carts around the store dodging customers, neighbors stopping in the middle of the aisles to chat, a line at the butcher, a line at the cheese counter, a line at the bakery, a line at the produce scales, and a long line at the checkout. Ugh. The only way to keep your sanity is to be patient and appear friendly. Nailed it.

This is so last year - this year we have only balls on the tree and no snow.
Although the stores will be crazy tomorrow and Wednesday as well, as of mid-day on Thursday all will calm down and we'll enjoy the quiet. Three and a half days of no shopping, no fighting crowds exchanging unwanted gifts, no dashing about for after-Christmas sales. Just quiet time with family. Walks in the valley, perhaps a snowless drive into the Black Forest, rounds of Trivial Pursuit, holiday films, reflecting on the past year and planning for next, and relaxing. The Germans really know how to do Christmas!

As for us, it will be just M, my Schwiegermutter, and me this year. My parents and kids have some grand plans in the U.S. (for instance driving from Wisconsin to Disney World and back over a week). We'll make Raclette on Christmas Eve, Lamb Stew on Christmas Day, Fondue (with soup, not oil!) on New Year's Eve, and on the other days Cordon Bleu, Shepherd's Pie, Ostpreußische Schusterpastete, and grilled pork (Schweinehals) with Bratkartoffeln.

Oh jeez...there I am going on about food again.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a good slide into the New Year! May 2016 bring peace.


  1. Our local supermarket is staying open until 9 p.m. tomorrow, probably for exactly the reason you just described.

    A very merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

  2. That's really cute that Lil' Baby Jesus is hanging out with the remotes!

    My coworker's children went to Sunday school and were disappointed that the Biblical story said during this particular session was the same one as last year! When my coworker asked the church leaders about it (he was more curious than anything else), they said it was because Jesus hadn't come yet and so they couldn't talk about Him. I have no idea if that happens in the US too but somehow I find it very German and rule-following -- and funny, too! Apparently that church's entire feeling is that they can't speak about anything remotely Jesus-like at the time so they just had to talk about helping others or something like that. Couldn't they have talked about the Annunciation or something like that? (Or maybe the whole idea of immaculate conception would be a little much for kids, to be fair.) Anyway, I was amused by the story.