How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany?

advent wreath with holly leaves and 4 candles - 3 purple and one pink This is a guest post from Rainer Schlötterer of RS_Globalization Services.

In Germany almost all families decorate their homes with an “Adventskranz” (advent wreath). This is a wreath most often made from twigs (fir tree, spruces) with four candles and often also decorated. The candles are lit on every Sunday before Christmas starting with 1 candle in the first week up until all 4 candles are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas day (25 December).

In the weeks before Christmas most families bake a lot of Christmas cookies. The children may help in the kitchen and have a lot of fun cutting cookies in all sorts of different shapes or nibbling at the fresh pastry. All-time favourites are the vanilla crescents and the “Spitzbuben” (“rascal cookies”). If you are too lazy to bake them yourself you may also buy them on one of the numerous Christmas markets in every town and city where you can get all sorts of Christmas bits and pieces while enjoying a mug of mulled wine.

When finally the children have opened the last door of their advent calendar on 24 December, Christmas eve is only hours away. Families usually go to church in the afternoon to celebrate the “holy night” and then come back with the children to find that the “Christkind” (Christ child) was here and put presents under the Christmas tree. This is a magical moment for the children although usually they may be a bit disappointed to have missed the “Christkind” once again as in the years before.

Families then traditionally would play and sing Christmas songs and have a special Christmas eve dinner if the children are not too busy unwrapping presents and play with the new toys. There is no traditional dinner for Christmas eve. Some families have a fondue or raclette when the children are a bit older. But roast, trout, home-made pizza or any other special meal will also do.

On the first Christmas day (25 December) it is time for visits of relatives, grandparents, etc. Now the traditional Christmas meal is goose which is roasted and served with delicious dumplings, gravy and red cabbage. If you find goose a bit too much or if your family is smaller, then also duck will do.

Boxing day (26 December) is also celebrated and is another chance for visiting family and relatives. There is no special Christmas dinner for boxing day but why not have another roast in the oven.

Many thanks to Rainer for this guest post. Rainer is the owner of RS_Globalization Services, which provides multilingual translation and localization services to SMEs and corporate clients. RS_Globalization Services is EN15038 certified.

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?    How do they celebrate Christmas in France?    How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark?

How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?

This is a guest post from Andrea Michael of Olive Translations.

If there’s one thing the Greeks know how to do it’s celebrate an event in style and Christmas is no exception.

The festivities begin before Christmas on 6th December (St Nicolas’ Day ) when children roam the streets with drums and triangles singing carols or ‘kalanda’ as they’re called in Greek. These carols have been handed down from generation to generation from Byzantine times.

Going from door to door, it’s a nice way to sing carols and children earn a few Euros (which in this economic climate is no bad thing!)

Greece being a Christian country, tradition and religion dictate many of the events that take place and Christmas is no exception. There is no doubt that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, a bread called ‘Christopsomo’, literally ‘Christ Bread’ is homemade and a sign of the cross is imprinted before it goes in the oven. On Christmas Day, the bread is sliced and each piece is given to a family member.

Christmas Day itself is usually spent in church in the morning then home for lunch with the family. Whilst turkey can be bought at supermarkets due to the influx of tourists, most families will have a leg of lamb or pork roasting on a barbeque spit cooking for hours. This is usually served with a traditional ‘spanakopita’ or spinach-cheese pie and lots of vegetables and rice.

For dessert there are two varieties of cakes ‘melomakarouna’ and ‘kourapiedes’ which are normally baked in large quantities. ‘Melomakarouna’  are semolina, cinnamon biscuits covered in honey, and ‘kourapiedes’ are rosewater and butter cookies coated with powdered sugar that are normally served on New Year’s but are often eaten earlier as they are too good to resist!

All this good food makes for partying and it’s not uncommon for music to be blaring all night long whilst everybody dances around their houses and into the street with neighbours joining in just for fun.

Gifts are not actually exchanged on Christmas Day, but are given on 1st January. Things then wind down but not before the Epiphany on 6th January. This is the date the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Jesus’ baptism when he was a man.

The Epiphany is also known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’. All over Greece, priests throw a cross which he has blessed into the sea ( or lake or river) and the male members of the family will dive into the freezing waters to be the first to get the cross. Whoever comes out first holding the cross is said to have good luck in the coming year.

If you happen to be in Greece and want to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ it’s ‘Kala Christouyenna!’.

Related posts: Tuesday 13th   How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany    How do they celebrate Christmas in France?

Many thanks again to Andrea for this guest post.  Olive Translations, based in Birmingham, is a translation company with a difference. Certified to the highest European Translation Standard, EN 15038 and with an ISO 9001:2008 Certified Quality Management System in place, when we say Quality; we mean it. Let us be your Partner for the provision of serious, quality translations and we can work together to tailor make a service and price that’s right for you. For a quote please email: info@olivetranslations.com

A Pantomime with a Difference

There’s little that says “Christmas” more than a pantomime (except Noddy Holder shouting “IT’S CHRISTMAS” of course) and last night I went to a pantomime for the first time in years. This though, was a panto with a difference. It took place at my local deaf club, and all the cast were deaf so the whole thing was done in sign language.

Ian and I were really unsure what to expect when we bought our tickets and our biggest worry was that we wouldn’t understand any of it. We needn’t have worried: the cast were brilliant. Their comedy timing was much better than many trained actors, and because pantomime and BSL are both so visual, the combination worked really well and we actually understood very well.

They also seemed to have thought about the fact that lots of people who went would be people like us, who were learning BSL and who thought this would be a great opportunity to practise. They included some elements of teaching/explaining new vocabulary, but because they built it so cleverly into the plot it didn’t seem contrived at all.

There was a group of interpreters there for non-signers, but we found them to be more of a distraction than a help – sometimes their words didn’t match the signs; sometimes their words didn’t even match the signer for example they were saying the Queen’s words  while the King was signing.

I can’t criticise them because it takes years of training to be a BSL interpreter, and interpreting a play is a very specialised area within the field of BSL interpreting, and these were just volunteers. To make their job even more difficult, I think that only the plot of the play had been decided; the performance itself had a very ad-lib feel to it so they wouldn’t have known the exact signs they had to interpret until they saw them. Taking all that into account, I think they did a great job.

If I could offer a little constructive feedback, it would be this:  often less is more.  Interpret the signs by all means, but facial expressions and actions can be understood by everybody so statements such as “I’m opening the door now to see if anybody is listening”, and “I’m sitting in the chair and wriggling about a bit because it’s not comfortable” could be dropped, giving more time to decide how to interpret the actual signing parts.

We really enjoyed it though, and would definitely go to another one. However, next time, I would take ear-plugs for a more authentic experience. I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for something a bit different to do. There’s another chance to see it on Tuesday 11th December in Dudley.

REsources – Part 2 (Christmas resources)

selection of children's books about ChristmasChristmas is another tricky time of year – most children know the nativity story by the time they start school but I found some fantastic books, suitable for KS1, which tell the story with a twist. The Grumpy Shepherd tells the story of Christmas from the point of view of Joram, a shepherd who is always moaning about something – sheep are boring and his job is too hard – until an angel appears with news of a very special baby.  Jesus’ Christmas Party tells the story from the point of view of an inn-keeper who gets very cross when his sleep is disturbed first by a man and his pregnant wife wanting someone to stay, and then by a bright star shining through his window. He gets crosser and crosser as he is woken by shepherds and kings looking for a baby, but then he meets the baby for himself. Finally A Christmas Story tells the story of a young girl and a baby donkey who follow Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, meeting angels and shepherds and kings along the way.

For older children, I have found this Advent wreath game a great resource. I have used it in the last week of the Autumn term, when the children don’t want to do any work because it’s nearly Christmas, and by the end of the game the children are able to explain clearly what an advent wreath is for, how it is used and what each part represents. Although it’s quite a simple game, Years 5 and 6 really got into it, and enjoyed it so much they asked if I would leave it in their classroom so that they could play it again later.

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Related post: REsources – Part 1 (General Resources)