Merry Christmas everybody!... (or Frohe Weihnachten if you are in German speaking lands!) I hope everyone had a happy holiday's and is looking forward to a happy New Year. Thank you for all the cards and presents that so many people sent me! They all really ment a lot.
I had a fairly uneventful Christmas. My host family is not particularily religious, so it felt odd going through the motions without the meaning (ie: going to church, no nativity set, etc). I definately missed many of the traditions my family at home has but I also learned some new ones. For example... real candles on the tree! Or taking a Christmas walk (the idea is that everyone has eaten so much that everyone goes out for a stroll). We took a trip down to the dikes and walked along the sea... but the tide was out, so only the Watt was there. Germany also has TWO official days of Christmas. Every child's dream, right? I think most people disregard the second day though since the overall German christmas time is counted differently.
It all starts with Dead sunday. This is the sunday before Advent, therefore 5 sundays before Christmas. All those who have died in the past year are honored at the churches. Then the next sunday starts Advent and the 4 consecutive sundays following Dead Sundat are each honored by the lighting of a chandle in the Advent wreath in each home. Finally, Christmas Eve comes, known as Holy Evening here. Most german households will have a formal family room used only for special occasions. In here, on Holy Evening, the christmas tree is brought in and decorated by the mother (alone) and behind closed doors. No one is alowed to see it until that evening. Everyone then goes to Chruch with the kids to the children's service (there is always a children's service and a late night service) and when everyone comes home, the father usually takes the children on a walk while the Christ Child (a 7-8 year old version of Jesus, accompanied by angels... today the Christ Child is being replaced by Santa Claus due to the large scale advertising and media influence from America) comes and delivers presents under the tree. All the presents are then opened on Holy Evening and a large Christmas dinner eaten. Some of the older children then go out to clubs and celebrate with friends late in the night after the parents go to bed.
First-Christmas morning, many of the older kids sleep in. Families will usually visit relatives or close friends. Of course they will eat more and take their Christmas walks. Second-Christmas is about the same, but is more casual. Many people go out and it is no different than a normal saturday or sunday (which here are always slow because almost all the stores and resturants are closed in the weekends).
The teacher that showed me around his museum called me up on second-christmas and took me on a tour of all the local churches in the area. We had thought they would be open, being christmas and all (we were mistaken). But I still had a lot of fun and saw some really neat things and learned a lot about the transition this area of Germany made from the old religions into Christianity. So now, I got a pretty basic first hand knowledge of the history of East Frisia from the Ice Age until the Middle Ages. Herr Heinz also told me a little about the economy of this area and what he believes will become of this area. Its a poor land. He also said that the people and the traditions of the Harlingerland (I live in the Harlingerland, the easternmost region of Ostfriesland) usually run about 20 years behind the mainstream of the general German trends. I guess it is a little bit sad to think about the future here. But it helps me to put into perspective the people and what I see around me.
So today and in the next few days before I head off the Berlin for New Years (whooo!!!) i'll be trying out all my new christmas presents and working on an Egg (my hobby... I create Faberge style eggs) for Diana because she is leaving in 2 weeks. I hope everyone had a merry Christmas and will have a happy New Year!