I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but while we’ve all been focusing on the build up to Christmas, decorating trees and attempting to wrestle the last bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream out of the cold hands of some unlucky pensioner, Britain has been invaded. This is a rather surprising turn of events, especially when you consider that one of the few sports Britain has been successful at over the centuries has been fending off the advances of foreign governments. There has been the occasional wobble, such as when a Dutch tourist was invited for a visit and brought several thousand troops as his plus one, but he seemed nice enough and was allowed to stick around and be king for a bit. However, while we have been congratulating ourselves on our winning streak, someone snuck in the back door and set up shop. Who, you might well ask, could possibly have managed to infiltrate fortress Britain? Thankfully The Daily Mail was on hand to uncover the interloper. It’s none other than a German Christmas.
Yes, you heard me right. German Christmas, according to the unimpeachable reporting of The Daily Mail newsroom, has replaced the traditional British Christmas. How do they know this? Well gentle reader, brace yourselves, this might come as a bit of a shock. Sales of mince pies have fallen and were recently overtaken by the sales of German Stollen. Not only that, but occasionally, some cities like to have…German Christmas markets!
Not wishing to question the factual nature of such an impressive tome as the DM, I do suspect it takes more than a slightly elegant fruit cake and some Glühwein to entirely change British Christmas. Additionally, what is a German Christmas? If only we had someone that could attempt a slightly hackneyed, yet mildly entertaining explanation of German Christmas traditions…actually I might know a guy.
My Kingdom for a Tree
I don’t want to show off, but I bought my Christmas tree two weeks ago. Although small and slightly dumpy, it has been spreading it’s needles and Christmas cheer for the last fortnight. When ever I mention this to German friends or co-workers I’ve been met by the same slightly bemused question; “Isn’t it a bit early?”. The reason for this is quite simple. Most German families won’t put up the tree until the 24th December. It is mainly for this reason that I’ve been fielding a number of questions from these same people about the health of my tree:
“Do you need to water it?”
“What about all the needles?”
“Won’t it die?”
I’ve brushed these questions off with the confidence that comes from having a C grade in Biology. “Not if you buy a good one” I declare knowingly. This leaves my audience with the impression that I’m either some kind of Christmas tree buying legend or, more likely, that I’m a blundering buffoon who likes hoovering.
First, Second, Third
When not enquiring about the life span of my festive fauna, most Germans like to know what I’m doing on my first Christmas day. Initially this question might confuse you, but actually they simply want to know what your doing over Christmas. In Germany, as in many other central European nations, Christmas is celebrated mainly on the 24th December. This is referred to as “Heilige Nacht” with “First Christmas Day” on the 25th and the 26th being in turn the “Second Christmas day”. I generally explain the concept of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day back in Britain, the latter of which gives me ample opportunities to over embellish the origin of that peculiar name. Currently there are at least eight Germans I know with the erroneous belief it’s because traditionally the ruling monarch squares off in a ring against all comers, four other Germans understand it’s named after Sir Reginald Boxely-Smyth, the inventor of wrapping paper and one unfortunate women is convinced that on the 26th British people like to hide themselves away in large boxes, occasionally jumping out on the unsuspecting in order to ward off evil spirits.
No TV and No Beer Makes Nic Something, Something
What could be more of a British tradition than going into a Turkey coma just as the Queen pops her mug on the telly to perform one of her tiresome monologues. Perhaps the tradition of drinking a crate of Fosters before lunch time? Well either way, neither of these things will be occurring in Germany. For one, they don’t have the same morbid desire to be ruled by an old granny in a sharp looking hat and for the other the TV is rarely even turned on. Christmas is truly family orientated in Germany, with family members actually enjoying the majority of their time together. This time might even be spent singing Christmas carols around the tree. Thankfully, for those who have an aversion to healthy family relationships, there is plenty booze on offer. However, don’t go over board, that can be frowned on. I made this mistake after learning I could get a Schnapps every time I complimented a persons Christmas tree. Turns out, sixteen schnapps followed by making naked snow angels in the living room (minus the snow) is seen as somewhat of a faux pas. Well, you live and learn, I guess.
Don’t Carp On
Filling your boots with Turkey and all the trimmings is generally considered the best way to celebrate Christmas and narcolepsy in Britain. The Germans in contrast are not restricted by just one meal option. Goose, Turkey, Steak, Chicken or some kind of roast could be on the menu. For the more exotic there is the option of Raclet or Fondue. One of the traditional options is to eat carp on the 25th, which might not sound so festive, but they do at least make it wear a little Santa hat.
So, what have we learned: well it takes more than a cake to change the traditional British Christmas. As long as people are still willing to watch the consistently depressing Eastenders Christmas special, drink more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol in six hours and celebrate on the 25th, Britain should be safe.