Christmas and New Years Spectacular!
and welcome to the first update of 2022. What is it about, you ask? 2021! Not the whole year (although shoot that's a great idea, maybe I’ll add that in the end). The primary focus here is the ending of 2021 a.k.a my first holiday season in Germany.
I was so lucky to get to spend both Christmas and New Year with my host Families here in Germany and learn about lots of new and exciting traditions in the process. Here is what some of that looked like. I’ll give you an overview of the highlights, some things I missed, other info, and photos for each holiday, so make sure to keep scrolling all the way to the end!
I had such a wonderful Christmas time here in Germany! I’ll go ahead and start with any and all Christmas things I did leading up to the actual week of festivities.
German Christmas markets
I know I've touched on these in other posts, but the German Christmas markets are really something special. There is such an air of excitement that it means the holidays are so near. They also have really just nailed the good holiday vibes since there is often music, there are always warm drinks, and lots of the little shops sell delicious smelling food and desserts, and many also sell lights and decorations so everything looks, smells, and feels festive. There was an added excitement to them this year since none of them happened last year. Of course, they also closed early this year due to rising covid numbers. Here are some pictures from those.
I also attended a Christmas event on campus where we had gluhwein and hot chocolate, ate waffles, and talked about Christmas traditions from all over the world. There was even someone dressed up as Santa which is something I haven't seen anywhere else here in town.
Then came actual Christmas time. My host parents that I live with here in Heidelberg have three children but they are all adults and live away from home. The week of the holidays they all came back home and it was great to have that extra energy in the house. With the break from university, I also had the chance to go on lots of walks and catch up on some good rest and relaxation.
In terms of celebrating Christmas with the family, the festivities take place on the 24th here. We woke up that morning, then after breakfast, we put up the tree. My host family has a real tree and decorated it with real candles. We played some board games. (this was a theme of the week, I tried to count in my head, and I learned 9 new board games… in German……I should get a reward!) After playing games for a while we went on a short walk through the neighborhood before we got ready for dinner. For dinner, on Christmas eve we ate raclette. Do yourself a quick google search if you don't know what that is, but essentially it's a sort of play on fondue. Basically, everything is covered in cheese and it's delicious. It's a meal that takes a lot of time, so it is perfect for spending time with the people you are eating with. After we ate we lit the candles on the tree, opened our Christmas gifts, and watched as the candles burned out. We rounded out the evening with a few more board games before going to bed.
It was so cool to see how other people celebrate the day, and the fact that this family opened their home to me, essentially a stranger, is so cool. I just feel like the idea of letting people from the other side of the world live with you is kinda wild, but I will definitely be doing it in the future too! I loved having a really big meal that takes time to really enjoy as a part of the evening, along with many German Christmas recipes (chocolate, cookies, and gluhwein) are traditions I could definitely see making it into my house someday.
A short moment to honor some American moments that I missed: They are really not into cheesy Christmas songs the way we are, so I have hardly heard any Christmas music this year. Because all of the festivities are in the late afternoon and evening here, I missed the moment of Christmas morning where you've just opened your eyes and you are already excited. And lastly, there were some specific American desserts I wasn't able to make this time around….. Oh yeah, and my family I guess ;) Those are all things I will just appreciate a little bit more next year, and every year after that.
On the days surrounding Christmas, we ate more, walked outside more, played more board games, and so on. On the 27th we all went together to see ‘Mutter Courage und Ihre Children’. After all, nothing says Christmas like the 30 years war. That is a joke.
Here are some photos of our Christmas festivities.
One of the activities I got to do before Christmas was painting and writing Christmas cards to be sent to old folks homes across Germany. It was such a fun treat for my artistic brain and german practice.
One of the many new games we played over Christmas week. Idk why but the choppy translation of 'the dog takes the hindmost' made me LOL
He is our tree post-decorations but pre-candles
Post-Candles on Christmas Eve
A before shot of our delicious Raclette meal
And the Raclette aftermath
A few of the lovely Christmas gifts I recieved
The lights in our lovely little stadtviertel
And Lastly two beautiful pictures from a few of the Christmas walks I mentioned
And Guten Rutsch!
On the 28th I caught the train to Saarbrucken to visit my first host family here in Germany. This was a plan made long ago as I was told they really love to go all out for New Year. It was such a joy to see them all again and to get a different peek into a German family Christmas. We got to do so many cool things, but most important was just getting to spend time with all my host siblings again. (see photos below for all of our fun activities)
The Silvester of New Year's Eve day was such a delight. We cleaned and decorated the house in the afternoon. After completing a gigantic shopping trip the day before. We ate raclette again, it continues to be delicious, this time around we had a smokey tofu that rocked my world. We had a kids' table and an adult table, which I was glad to see is a distinction that exists all around the world. After dinner, we had some drinks (this was the official first unveiling of my host dad's new bar, so you will notice drinking was a theme). We sang some karaoke. There were billiards. We drank some more. We got to do lead pouring which is an old German tradition that functions a little bit like getting your fortune read. We did a countdown. We drank some more. We had HUGE fireworks (see photos and videos) and drank some more. It was such a lively and fun evening, but still felt so at home too! Just a perfect balance of a night out and a night in and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
After two raclette means I can admit I have already looked into getting a raclette grill when I am back in the states…. I just have to have one, and I hope to also have a bar one day that is even 1/10th as cool as Ralfs.
In terms of things I missed from New Year back home, I really love the holiday of new year's day. I love to reflect on what I have accomplished and set goals for the next year. This year was definitely more of a celebration mindset and I did not yet do much goal setting or vision board making, but perhaps that is just still to come.
Overall I had a WONDERFUL holiday season abroad. I do have to admit the tiniest sense of relief that they are over. Of course, it's challenging to be away from your family during these times, and I am incredibly proud of myself for getting through it. Of course, that wouldn't have been possible without my two wonderful families here in Germany.
Now I am back in Heidelberg and back in university every day, busy as ever. I like to think January is going to be an exciting time for me. I have a personal disposition for new beginnings, I’m ready to see where this year goes. I attended a conference last week for the exchange program I am in and they said ‘hopefully the next six months of your life will be the best six months of your life.” I am almost certain they will be.
Three quick “Vielen Dank” from these past few weeks, then Silvester pictures:
My wonderful family here in Heidelberg. There is no one I’d rather eat too many cookies and be confused over board games with.
My wonderful family in Saarbrucken. There is no one I’d rather make a cocktail, build some legos, and listen to the Peppa pig theme song with.
And my family back home. Everybody is getting double presents next year.
And now, a very long and slightly sporadic, but VERY worthwhile photo dump:
The first picture of me in Saarbrucken. I haven't seen Winnie and Teddy since they left back in September, needless to say, it was a very happy reunion.
My host-brother got a new camera for Christmas, this is one of the VERY flattering photos he took of my while he was trying it out.
All the sisters and my host mom got to go out to breakfast one morning. This was such a simple thing but totally warmed my heart, cause this is EXACTLY the type of thing my mom and I would do.
Emmi did our NYE nails, which followed with a very dramatic photoshoot to show them off...duh!
Just a cute little Teddy, Kennedy, Julie selfie!
And now we get into the NYE festivities, this is what Julie and I wore.
This was just one tiny piece of the meal but had to be documented nonetheless. This is a ham leg. (or way more fun in german cause it rhymes.... a Schwein Bein)
Sister Sips before dinner
The energy of this photo is just a great capture of the night. I don't know why teddy is on the table, but we are all just vibing.
The kids' table will always be my favorite place to sit.
A few kinder-cocktails for the little ones.
And the real cocktails for the adults, as you can see, I was VERY excited about this bar.
I tried to mimic Emmi's Model face....
And quickly gave up and returned to smiling!
Just in case you forgot what year we are in...
And a sneak peek of our karaoke and just dance marathon.
The cutest little sister photoshoot you ever did see.
Then came FIREWORKS. Fun fact: Germany is not nearly as dry and burnable as Idaho, so fire safety was not the first priority here, FUN was.
And to end, here are a few other adventures from the non-Silvester Saarbrucken days:
I got tickets to the Nussknacker for Christmas. It was beautiful.
We went bowling! Tons of fun for us, a bit too-much fun for little Teddy.
Ate lots of good Vegan Candy.
Completed two puzzles! 1st Disney, 2nd Harry Potter
Enjoyed many an evening by the fireplace.
And possibly, second-most important behind just spending time together: really made good use of the shiny new bar.
What a time to be alive my friends. I spent a good piece of these holidays missing home, but I just know wherever I am next year I'm gonna spend a good chunk of time missing this!
p.s. Maybe I can do a sort of 2021 reflection in the next post. I still really like that Idea!