Monday, December 28, 2009

Weihnen auf Weihnachten

[ Crying at Christmas ]

Literally, yes. Emotionally, not so much. Let me explain.

Christmas at the Sebode house with Inge, Andreas, Moritz, my other host sister Janna, and other family members was incredible - Truly a great experience. They made me feel so at home and truly like a son in the family. With great opportunities to skype back home and say Merry Christmas and Wesołych Swiąt to everyone back in the States [ and in Poland – how cool to call my family in Europe!] the was no homesickness at all during this very important season for family gatherings. My Grandpa must have brushed up on some Deutsch skills and impressed everyone in Germany who heard him on the loudspeaker when he greeted me with a hearty “Wie Geht’s Ihnen?” – a formal greeting of “How are you doing?” when I was on the phone with him.

[ Some warm images from home for the holidays, as well as some of my favorite decorations in the house - many a few generations passed down. ]

[ Thought this was funny - it reminded me about the "shitting paper is over" back in Saarbrücken! ]

Christmas at the Sebode house was filled with just as much excitement, great new traditions and many packed days of celebrating with an even greater amount of food [which you will see in the upcoming photos]. The preparations of the tree, the cooking and other errands around the house and in town that I could help with really made the holiday feel more festive to me and more that I was part of the family.

On the 23rd I helped Inge dice up some vegetables and prepare some other ingredients to be used over the next few days – I must say it was extremely impressive. At my house back home – albeit we cook for several dozens of people – the cooking is a project for the WHOLE family over several days with everyone boiling, mashing, pinching and rolling ingredients for excellent Polish cakes, soups and locally famous Crachiola-Partynski Pierogi. In Germany however, Inge impressively, and in extremely organized fashion, had the entire menu set up and ready to go for the holiday festivities – and most importantly it was extremely delicious.

Along with the vegetable dicing, we had to prepare der Meerrettich – the homemade horseradish – to be used for the succulent Gewürzt Lachs – Marinated Salmon. Inge warned me it would make me tear up – but I figured it would be like dicing onions – a bit of watery eyes.

Shaving the root on the cheese grater – Woosh! – the misty cloud rushed up into my face – they must make pepper spray out of this stuff.

I couldn’t even blink – I was crying like I was just forced onto Santa’s lap like a petrified 2 year old. The tears were streaming down my face, eyes blod shot – this stuff was intense!

Taking turns with Inge – crying together over the great bonding experience that it was! – we finally grated that root down and mixed it together with the sauce that would complement one of the best main dishes of the first evening of the festivities – December 24thHeilige Abend.

Finnische Specialitäten Weihnachtsmarkt

[ Finnish Themed Christmas Market in Hanover ]

Very similar to seeing the Mangha Japanese Culture Museum in Kraków which nostalgically combined my travels to Poland and Japan together in one building, there was another surprise in Hannover for me that brought back some other memories. One street in the Weihnachtsmarkt had a very special theme and that was ‘ Finnische Specialitäten’. It was an entire section full of reindeer skins, Lappish themed stands and tents, steaming selections of frying fish as well as drying racks of bright pink-orange salmon. The bottles of lingonberry jams as well as all the Salmiakki specialties had me beaming.

Like Poland, I had a very generous offer from my very-missed host family in Finland, the Salminens, to come to Turku and experience a Finnish Christmas, yet I had to explain that this year was an important time for me to bond with my German host family and friends and grasp as much German culture as I could. The pictures from the Finnish-style Weihnachtsmarkt really had me missing Jarno, Anna, Saani, the little twins and Fanny as well. The plan is to see them later this year for sure while I am here in Europe. The Christmas Market was definitely a surprise for me, brought back some great memories, and emphasized the fact that I have great family and friends all over Europe now and for that I am truly grateful.

Hyvää Joulua!

Weihnachtsmarkt Hannover

[ Hanover Christmas Market ]

After our very scenic – and frigid – tour along the red line in Hannover, we semi-skated [our feet too cold to actually walk] to the Weihnachtsmarkt and caught the festive sights of the stands, great smells like always – as well as borrowed a bit of the heated steam trailing off from the crepe stands.

Hannover’s Weihnachtsmarkt was different than Göttingen’s. Back in Göttingen, the feel is more of a cozy town and the market centered in the middle market-square. In Hannover, it seemed to branch out on many streets, weaving around the department stores also with ornate décor perfect for window-shopping.

With just days before Christmas, the market was packed and every corner had stands with steaming hot chocolates and Glühwein as well as enormous seasonal favorites of Wursts and thick slices of pork on crusty Brötchen rolls. The entire atmosphere is remarkable – something I doubt could be found anywhere else – and was the perfect finish to another great trip with friends to another city, as well as our last warm wishes to each other before we went our separate ways for the holidays.