Although the holiday season is past, 10-year-old Greta has been working on a blog post about her experiences celebrating holidays in Germany. If you want to see more pictures, flashback to our holiday photo album. Here’s Greta:
The holiday season is over, but it was a time that I will always remember and treasure. I thought it was so fun seeing all the differences and similarities in the celebrations here. Some of our experiences were really funny, and some were just amazing. I’ll never have a holiday season quite like this one again.
The first holiday my siblings and I always look forward to is Halloween. We usually trick-or-treat in our neighborhood with friends, dress up and eat dinner (chili and cornbread) at my house. We didn’t really know how Halloween would be celebrated in Germany or that it’s not actually celebrated much, but one of our friends here and her friend were going trick-or-treating, so we decided to go with them.
The costumes are a big deal normally, so we spent as much time as usual on them. Anya was a bat, Walter was Luke Skywalker, and I was a vampire. So we tried to find the costumes with the limited supplies there were in Göttingen, and it took a while. We also bought a bag of candy like we usually do for trick-or-treaters. Then we invited our friend, her family and her friend over for dinner. We ate chili and cornbread and then went out.
All the houses in our neighborhood are apartment buildings, so I thought we would just going to go to each bottom floor, but our friend wanted to go all the way up, so we spent a while at each house. Some people weren’t home, and only a few knew what we were doing at all and had candy ready! Some didn’t know what we were doing when we said “Süßes sonst gibt’s Sauers” (trick or treat), and they gave us money, candy that was supposed to be for them, or nothing at all. Meanwhile, we only got a few trick-or-treaters at our home. It was fine, but weird, definitely not my favorite Halloween, and I came home thinking, “Did we really just celebrate Halloween?” But we thought it was pretty funny. It was like having a dream that was half realistic and half…well, dreamlike.
In November there’s a German holiday called Martinstag in which kids walk around the city with homemade lanterns and sing songs. The legend of St. Martin is that he was riding his horse through the woods and he saw a poor man in the snow. He cut his coat in half and gave one half to the man. Walter had made a lantern in school and Anya and I also made ones, so we decided to participate in the parade in town. We went a little late, but Mom thought it would be OK because there was a church service before the parade of kids and lanterns. Well, we got there and no one was there. We searched a lot, but we just couldn’t find the parade. We only saw it when all the people were going home! So we went home, too, but we hadn’t done the parade. It wasn’t a big deal, just an experience to laugh about.
My Grandmother was here during November, so we celebrated Thanksgiving with her. We also invited another American family over. We usually have a Thanksgiving feast with lots of relatives, but this year it was smaller. But we still had our traditional meal: a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and for dessert, pie. It was delicious! Despite the fact that I’m vegetarian, I decided to eat the traditional turkey. We also watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and played music. Although Thanksgiving felt like it was stuck in the middle of another holiday because people had started to celebrate Christmas, and we didn’t get days off from school, and we were probably some of the only people celebrating Thanksgiving in Göttingen, I had a great time at our feast. It was small, but I liked it that way, because we still had the tasty food and the amazing friends and family.
Meanwhile, Christmas season was already starting. One of my favorite parts was the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market), because I thought it was so merry and bright, even though it was in dark, cold winter. It was in downtown Göttingen starting in late November. There were Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), bread, nuts, candy, cookies, Würste (sausages), crepes, Glühwein and more yummy treats for sale. There were also craft stands, selling blankets, clothes, ornaments, pots, glassware, wood ware and other beautiful decorations. The holiday lights strung around evergreen branches lit up the streets, showing street names (actually now I know a lot more of them than before), reindeer, stars, and glowing balls! Since it was gets dark so early in winter in Germany, we could often see the Weihnachtsmarkt at night, when it was the most gorgeous. It also had a Ferris wheel, which Anya, Walter and I rode on a few times. I liked the Weihnachtsmarkt a lot!i
The Christmas spirit was all around, which meant that it traveled into our home and schools, too. We made yummy and beautiful things, which are parts of all of our holiday seasons every year. Like always, we got a Christmas tree, and it looked great decorated with our homemade ornaments, which we had to work extra hard on, due to the lack of millions of decorations that we usually bring out at Christmas time. Some of them we made at Anya’s school, because it had a “Back- und Basteltag” (baking and craft day). There we made gingerbread, crafts, cookies and most of all fun, surrounded by good friends.
In my school we had a class holiday party, and right before vacation there was a school church service. The theme was “Freude,” which means “joy.” The school orchestra played, the teacher choir and the 11th and 12th grade choir sung, and students gave presentations or read out of the Bible. I thought the service was really nice. One of the presentations I liked was about older students who were staying a while in Ethiopia, because FKG (my school) has a partner school there. They taught the students there about what Christmas was like in Germany, and in return the students from Ethiopia showed about Christmas there. Although holidays in Ethiopia and Germany are much more different than the USA and Germany, I guess I liked it because I was learning about holidays in Germany, too.
But because my Dad’s family is Jewish, Christmas isn’t the only holiday in December for us. We celebrate Hanukkah, too. We eat latkes, light a menorah, play dreidel, and at home, celebrate with other half-Jewish friends. But because there aren’t many Jews in Germany, we had friends over and taught them about Hanukkah. I told the story in German, we had the same Hanukkah meal, we played dreidel with one Anya made, Mama cleverly made a recycled menorah out of old bottles, and we played with our friend. I thought it was really fun, and we shared our tradition with people who didn’t have it. It made me feel really good.
After a while, Christmas itself finally came. Actually, I was a little sad, because it meant that the Weihnachtsmarkt I loved would be gone. But there were still more things to discover: for instance, that presents are opened on Christmas Eve and “der Weinachtsmann” (Santa Claus) comes then too, so kids go out while he comes. We did that, but saved the rest of our gifts for the 25th. All of them were great! We also had delicious meals on both days, and the day after, we went to Rome, where we had a great time and spent New Year’s Eve and Day!
So, although the holidays were different than usual, and I was missing the family I would usually see, I had a wonderful holiday season! I’m not surprised to say that most of the differences were what made it so amazing. I hope you all had as good a holiday season as my holidays in Germany!