God Christmas Sucks Here in Germany


God Christmas Sucks Here in Germany

Counting this one, this is my third Christmas spent here in Germany. Last year I was home in the States and it sure did feel like Christmas. There was snow, Christmas decor everywhere and the actual ability to gift the people I love. Here in Köln there is no snow on the ground and there are no street level homes covered in twinkling lights. There is nothing to signify that it is that wonderful time of the year. Even before Covid, I found myself asking people what does it for them here. I mean it is cold and grey starting late September. It is getting darker in October. The Rhein is like the Hudson for a good powder snow that never sticks. So without the Rockefeller or the mall Santa what is it that makes it so. I was constantly told about the Christmas Markts. Call me a bah humbug but I hate those fucking things. Nothing annoys me more than standing in the the cold surrounded by strangers eating things with no utensils. The gifts displayed are over priced and homemade crafts at best. The music is all horrible renditions of songs I can listen to in the comfort of my home. And for the months those monstrosities take up space I have to inconvenience myself to get across and or through them to get to whatever store or train. I will not say I am glad they are cancelled this year but I am relieved I do not have to be convinced to go to one to feel Christmas-y. I have frozen enough eating reibekuchen in my palm of my hand. For me Christmas is about the vibe. It is about getting it right at home. It is about the warmth and comfort of sitting in a decorated house, eating soul food and splurging on family & friends. 

Decorating sucks.

The stores here just don't take Christmas seriously. Most of the discount and import stores do but there is no Target beaming with twenty aisles dedicated to wowing you. A lot of the decor here is very classic and nostalgic. Glass kugeln and lighting candles. There are no fun wreaths, stockings or lit pink flamingos for the yard. And who will see the stuff anyways. The trees while fresher but cheap are so damn small. But I guess all of this is geared to the tiny apartment dwellers here without elevators, vaulted ceilings or the Joneses who will see. We aren't even allowed to display a wreath on our door or flank the welcome mat with poinsettia. I try to have a theme each year and wastefully I do replace most things year after year. That is hard to do here when stores literally recycle the same colors and trends year after year. Meanwhile there is innovation and modern takes on Christmas decor year round in America. We have entire stores open year round that sell Christmas stuff. And Germany doesn't even have Halloween and Thanksgiving to worry about. So why the stores do not take advantage I have no idea. I guess everyone wants the same shitty craft paper and butchers twine. 

Soul Food? Where!?

Germans love to eat during the holidays but mostly noshies and small plates. Their idea of entertaining is to wow guests with platters of meats, cheese and sauces. Then they take those same appetizer like foods and grill, dip or raclette them on Christmas and New Years. I used to think Germans just do not have a traditional meal so they lean on these Swiss and French concepts for panache. There is nothing festive or special about dipping raw meat into spattering oil or broth. I prefer a buffet or sit down meal that is at least semi formal - the Turkey, a Duck or a Beef Roast. One where the china and silver is brought out and everyone dresses up. For Black folk in the States the menu for both holidays is geared around Soul Food. A lot of people have this notion that that food is unhealthy and salty. It mostly is! But we only eat it a few times out of the year. And most families are improvising and enhancing those recipes to make them more healthy, less salty and in my case most of my holiday soul food is vegan. There is always a battle between the aunties and the cousins of who made what the best. There is no battle or pride in store bought baguettes, cubes of pre-packaged meat and frozen canapés from Lidl. I like the idea of the noshies throughout the season as they are always rolling out new and different ones at all the popular German stores. But on Christmas Day and New Years Eve I want to make a meal that is as close to home as can possible. However, sourcing the ingredients have proven to be difficult year after year. I find real macaroni noodles at the wochenmarkt. I get kale and freeze it the moment grünkohl season begins. I get black eyed peas from the Turkish or Italian laden. I make due with the plain ham, health food store corn meal and Japanese yams. I only miss out on certain things but it is only my husband and I that appreciate it. We don't have over guests or host elaborate parties for a multitude of reasons. Everyone here is occupied with their children, we do not have a lot of entertaining space and everyone including him actually prefers a helicopter menu. The TV is on, the table isn't set and there is no grace. I am the only one seeking a turkey or a roast with all the sides. In fact, people have called it too much. Trust me in comparison to the spread I would make back home this is far and few. I miss that open door policy of friends and fam just passing through, bringing a bottle and leaving with a plate. Instead I have to endure dry plaztchen, small talk and fondue. This is why we stay home. 

Gift ... Giving 

To give a heartfelt gift in Germany is to take a leap of faith. You never know what anyone wants. I have found that appreciation gifts aren't well received here and many times where I wished to give a gift to someone I was talked out of it. I stopped giving cards while in America I was a platinum Hallmark member. I once wished for a proper gift wrapping station or room and now I am lucky to find decent ribbon. I was giving cookies, jellies and soups as a token of my love but later found out Germans don't really care for it either. So for Christmas other than shopping for my husband I sit on my hands. Even for us I find it so hard to get quality wrapping paper, tissue paper, festive bows or those lil gift tags. It is like they are non-existent even this time of the year. How is it that people just give gifts wrapped in what they would wrap fish in? Germans are so caught up on packaging and waste they make strange decisions over gifting. I am certain many Germans just hand people things with the tags still on and in its original packaging to conserve. I would much prefer an extravagantly wrapped gift any time of the year but at Christmas even more so. For the fanfare and photos, it should be fluffy, sparkly and big. But here we are year another year sans colored tissue paper floof. Meanwhile, across the pond I have a friend who puts confetti in every card she sends even Thank You cards. You know what Germans do bigger than Christmas - Karneval and Silvester! There are more fun things for those few days than for all of December. We get a tree. I make the most of it. No one even cares. Frankly, no one can even see the tree in our living room because we are the sixth floor. But I don't even see trees in the buildings that surround us. Recently, I saw one on the damn balcony. Just abandoned and cold.

Notice I didn't even mention the Rona. While it has affected things for me not much has changed. I still cringe when children call Santa the Weihnachtenmann. It is all so clinical. So again, no mall Santa, no big tree lighting, no theme park carolers, or dab sweaters or foil trays of macaroni & cheese. Just the barfy smell of würst swimming in too wet greens and an old pot of boiling glühwein. Sugarless cakes and dry kekes. The only excitement an Advent calendar, smoked salmon for 6€ and the lighting of candles to know what day it is. Otherwise, Corona aside, no Uno stacks, walks to the liquor store or movie releases on Christmas Day. Hell, not even a good Chinese dim sum, kiss under the mistletoe or White Elephant exchange with co-workers you hate. Just really stinky melting cheese, parma ham slices and staring. A lot of fucking staring.  Le Sigh.