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Starting on White Christmas

November 28-December 3, 2010

Written December 4 and 5

Friends and Families ,

This is the story of the start of our fifth Bavarian Christmas and the season is one of my favorites. So many Bavarians immigrated to America that there is a familiar feel of much of that we see. Better yet, the emphasis of the season is still socializing, not shopping. Without lecturing, I'll simply say it's a pleasant difference. This diary will take us through the first week of Christmas.

November 28 - A Christmas Carole

"On the first day of Christmas." or whatever the equivalent is in German, that's what we were looking forward to at the local center of high culture, the Kellerhaus Kafe. On the first weekend of Advent , the Kellerhaus had hosted a choir workshop, apparently hours and hours of practice on Friday evening and all day Saturday. The graduation project was a performance of seasonal specialties, all in German except one in Frankish and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot", more or less in English.

The weather was perfect for the views from the Kafe, just enough snow on the ground to color our local fields. The crowd was less than standing-room only, but whoever didn't come, lost out. The "students" were all talented and the setting perfect. Even if we understood very little, we appreciated the music nonetheless.

We also enjoyed the company of the Hofmann family when the matriarch Betty accepted our invitation to join us at our table. She is truly local, truly Franken (= hard to understand), strong, opinionated, and a real jewel. Her granddaughter Miriam joined the table too, listening to her mom Rose Marie in the graduation performance. Son/dad William continued his normal role as host of the family Kafe.

A great start of the season: local, beautiful in scene and sound, and warm in (almost) family atmosphere.

December 1 - Snow and it is not winter yet

OK. White Christmas is one thing, but snow even before November is completely gone is not what we consider ordinary, even in Bavaria. But, 2010 did see a bunch of snow dumped on November 30th and we started December buried in white. It was pretty, sure, but it also forced me to stay home from work one day (is that bad???) and the timing meant we thought of all the interference snow can make on travel.

As I am writing this, it is four days later and the snow is still here, something that is unusual around here. Even more upsetting is the forecast that this white stuff will stay around for as long as the current estimate (10 days). We'll see.

December 3 - Our first two Christmas markets

A favorite "tradition" we have after eight years in Germany is starting our visits to Christmas markets. Two years ago, we went to over a dozen, from Hamburg to Wasserburg am Inn, but this year I think we will be more local. For starters, we went to Erlangen's pair of markets, one traditional and one "medieval".

Walking the evening streets of Erlangen was particularly festive since the snow and ice reflected the lights of decorated stores and restaurants. The traditional Weinachtsmarkt in the big downtown square had plenty of people enjoying the cold and the local antifreeze, "glühwein". Actually, there are calories of all sorts, spiced wine, cookies, candies, and sausage. We managed to avoid all but the hot spiced wine, our first of the glühwein season.

A few blocks from the traditional market is the Erlangen medieval Christmas market. The difference from "traditional" is subtle. The crafts are more local and hand made, the glühwein cups more rustic, although the contents seem the same, and the vendors more costumed. The food too was only slightly different, from popcorn to that old German Christmas favorite, "langos", a fried bread from Hungary. Our own Hungarian had to have one of these slices of straight calories. But, we NEEDED something to tide us over to our party dinner.

December 3 continued - A foreign-language Christmas Party

Marianne still takes German conversation classes, from time to time, and Monika, the head of the school, organized a Christmas dinner for staff and students. Marianne and I showed up at the restaurant 20 minutes early because it was just too cold to keep wandering the streets! Eventually St. Nick and the rest of the folks arrived and we spent the night speaking German to Hungarians and Americans. Kind of strange, but fun in any event. Monika has enormous energy and she arranged everything from a gift exchange to an amateur (very amateur) song contest.

It was all good.

Of course this was just the first part of our Christmas season. There are more Christmas markets to come. Stay tuned!



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