The temp agency where I just started doing some additional part-time work already provided some Christmas cheer and extended the gift-giving to all their employees.
The company where I’m on loan has a nicely decorated entrance. At the receptionist’s station, four large Advent candles burn brightly. There is only one left to be lit. No politically correct issues with keeping Christian religious traditions – what Christmas ultimately is all about.
The language school had a Christmas dinner for all its teachers and staff; a practice that is more prevalent among other European and North American companies. Local businesses and stores give their customers chocolates or include a package of traditional sweets (Spekulasien or Lebkuchen) in their shipment.
Ulm showcases its market on the large plaza in front of the cathedral. The city is very young and vibrant thanks to its universities. With its 123,700 inhabitants, Ulm isn’t very large, nevertheless it has much to offer architecturally and historically – Einstein was born here! More on Ulm in future blogs.
The larger cities keep the Christmas stalls open throughout the day and Advent weeks and besides the various crafts and specialties, there are the obligatory Glühwein and sausage stands, where people enjoy mulled wine and spiced or mouth-burning sausages. In the smaller towns the Christmas (not “Holiday”!) or Advent markets only open on week-ends. The ambiance in these brightly lit markets is joyful even in the bone-wrenching humid cold. Nothing like a good mug of Glühwein to keep the spirit warm!
There was a lovely Nativity Scene with live animals at the centre of the market, as shown on the slide-show below.
Christmas trees are everywhere.
Our village, although small, boasts one of the larger and best lit trees in the area. Maybe it’s to make up for the lack of a Christmas Market… The village has a population of around 2,200.
Everywhere one can take in the many concerts and even in the smallest villages, it is quite amazing to discover the talents that come alive at a time such as this. This evening, a friend and I attended an Advent Concert hosted by the Sisters at the Brandenburg Convent’s church. Featured on the program were traditional songs performed by the Mandolin Club of the neighbouring Illerieden-Wangen villages which have a combined population of around 3,400. A ladies’ choir of around 20 members sang beautifully a cappella followed by a men’s choir of around 40 members who performed works by Bühler and Beethoven a cappella. The men belong to the Cecilia Singers Association in Schnürpflingen, which boasts a population of 1,330! That’s a large percentage represented in the choir… The last pieces, such as The Little Drummer Boy were followed by the finale: “Lift High the Doors” intoned by both choirs and the entire audience.
As far as religious observance, there seems to be little difference between the Roman Catholic and Protestant festivities. Christmas is definitely seen as a highlight of the Christian Church calendar and the faith tradition is alive and well. Nobody takes exception to the sacred public displays that are in the communities and in companies. It’s a given that this is an important holy time for the Christian community.
Consumerism doesn’t appear as excessive yet as in North America or some other European countries, where gift giving tends to go into overdrive. Time will tell whether the trend will change in future.
The weather has been quite cold – the humidity adding to the feeling. The mercury dipped to –14C for a couple of days. We had some serious snow flurries; not much fun to drive in. At least I could take comfort as I was driving around 40-45 kms/hour, others behind me were going even slower so I was not alone. The drive home took a little longer as usual and was a bit more stressful… The worst though was one evening when I was heading home from work; the fog was so thick I could hardly see anything ahead of me – now that was nerve-wracking!
Princess Twingo received her first bumper scrape when leaving a parking lot… at least it wasn’t on the Auto- or Bundesbahn. She’ll be taken care of and back to new the first week of January.
In January’s blog I will share some of the wage differences, work practices and cost of living.
For now, as I head out to Italy to celebrate with family there, I wish you all Frohe Weihnachten, Merry Christmas, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, Gelukking Kerstfeest and a very blessed and healthy New Year!
May your celebrations be joyous and meaningful and the reason for the gift of Christ in Christmas bring peace and serenity to your homes.