With less than a week until Christmas, the countdown has finally begun. If this seems late to you, well, you’re probably right. I love Christmas, but I am also a textbook procrastinator. As if to stay true to form, the countdown in Germany began long ago with Advent.
Advent refers to the four Sundays before Christmas. There are usually candles on a wreath, and each week, you light one additional candle. We have a giant one in the entry at school, and most of the classrooms have small ones. I’m used to the white-pink-purple color combination, but all red is really festive. As I mentioned in one of my Thanksgiving posts, my friends from school gave me one. Isn’t it pretty?
While Advent in the US more or less stays in church, the German public widely recognizes Advent as the beginning of the Christmas season. Now, I’m a fan of secular public celebration; I have to say, however, that kicking off the holidays by observing Advent seems a more pleasant way to begin than the consumer-fueled frenzy that is Black Friday.
Just because Advent is not a consumer frenzy per se doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to buy to help you recognize it. The Advent calendar is the standard form, but there are many variations. Here are some of my favorites:
The candy-filled calendar is the classic. Open a door each day to discover a piece of candy. All the major German candy companies sell one (Haribo, Milka, Kinder). We were lucky enough to receive one filled with Ferrero candies from our lovely Austrian friends. Delicious! Check it out:
The health foods store in Osnabrück sold Advent calendars from two different tea companies. Each offered one tea for each day. I bought one for George and one for me, and we drink one together each evening.
Our Austrian friends also sent us this amazing little book for Advent. The book contains a short story and a recipe for each day of the Advent season. I love this gift because it hits so many of my interests: food, German literature and Christmas.
I enjoy the German Advent, but now that I’m back in the US, I’m also loving my American Christmas countdown rituals: over-eating, last-minute shopping and watching holiday movies. Just today, in fact, I got to do all three. Lasagna, Home Alone, and gifts which must remained unmentioned – It really is the most wonderful time of the year.