Friday, January 1, 2010

Weihnachts-Frühstück und ein Spaziergang durch den Park.

[ Christmas morning breakfast and a walk through the park ]

Christmas Eve ended pretty late - but sleeping in was not a part of Christmas morning. Moritz and I - now sharing the same room for the week with the house filled with relatives - didn't originally think we had an alarm clock - but we were wrong with little Timmi coming downstairs and marching in with "Mo-gen! Guden Mo-geeeen!" It was a bit before 10, but Moritz and I were the last ones up - and I came upstairs to quite a surprise.

[ Timmi and Laura helping with the fresh Orangensaft ]

A huge breakfast spread on the table ready for Weihnachtsfrühstuck. Clad in a warm sweater and surrounded by the cheery atmosphere of everyone on Christmas morning I was definitely feeling the holiday spirit.

[ Omi and Opa with Timmi ]

After our great breakfast - a tradition of the family with everyone sleeping over the house during the Feiertagen - Holidays - everyone got their shoes on and wrapped new scarves around their necks for a family outing around the Kiesee - a large, beautiful lake only minutes away from my home in Göttingen.

A nice family stroll, kicking around the soccer ball [ who had to slip in the mud?... just guess], and some humorous attempts to fly a kite, the Christmas morning excursion was a very nice family outing together to enjoy the rather moderate Christmas day temperature.

Back home, after a bit of a Pause, everyone was back up again around the house and Inge had the kitchen filled with the aroma of a delicious and huge turkey nearly bumping the edges of the hot oven. Another evening with a few more relatives stopping by, a big Turkey dinner and some board game spielen around the candle glowing Weinachtsbaum was in store for all of us.

Heilige Abend pt. 2

[ Christmas Eve pt. 2 ]

Naturally I was feeling a great appreciation for family and friends being so distant from the comforts of cooking with family members back home, the smile on my Babcia, Grandma and Grandpa's faces with the family together and lump in my throat with my brother exclaiming to me in a facebook chat a few days prior - "what am I going to do without you on Christmas morning?"

[ Notice the different spelling of America? - This was a gift from Inge and Andreas for me that I thought was such a cool idea - A new opportunity to cook some American regional favorites and learn about my own country from Jaime Oliver's narratives - however, based on the message written for me in the inside cover - I just need to learn some more German to be able to use it! I am very excited to make some good dishes from these recipes! ]

But my experience with the Sebode family made me appreciate the very special bond I had with my family here in Germany, and the exceptional and intimate experience of sharing Christmas with them and their traditions. Coming to Germany this year, I really came underestimating the challenges of living abroad - Japan, Finland, I've done this before - but my ignorance aside, some of the most eye opening experiences for me this year have been the ones that have challenged me to be a little more outgoing speaking German and meeting people but also - and I think the greatest challenge for a young adult, almost 20 and in college - is being a little more vulnerable and part of the family, but the rewards have been huge.

[ Andreas and Inge opening up some gifts from me including some surprises brought over from the states! ]

[ The Weihnachtsman even brought something for me ! ]

[ Moritz got some 'Moritz' beer ]

I have never been away from home this long and - as my dad made apparent in a recent call back home - this could be the only time that I experience Christmas with another family and in a new way, so take it all in. The reality of this doesn't hit you until after you are in the middle of singing around the tree, getting on a ladder to light the highest candles near the ceiling, trading presents and hugs and laughs over some inside jokes - at this point in the year, I am far from perfect in German, but definitely conversational, I feel much less as "the American" and more "Chris", and the entire holiday is forgotten to be viewed through lenses as a "cultural experience" - before you realize and look back, you were in the mix of real life and the entire new situation felt incredibly comfortable and nostalgic.

Singing "O' Tannenbaum" around the glowing and beautifully scented fir tree, and watching the cries of glee when the Weihnachtsman arrived, the entire evening was incredible. From the food to the gifts, to the hugs, laughs and beaming smiles that I only hope conveyed to Inge, Andreas, Moritz, Janna and the rest of the family how appreciative I was - my Christmas Eve in Germany became something that I truly will never forget.

Heilige Abend

[ Holy Night - Christmas Eve ]

The big holiday evening finally arrived - and I would later find out that it was just the beginning of quite a few days of celebrating - and just as dusk was arriving in Göttingen I got my Hemd and Anzug on and the doorbell was ringing with relatives for me to meet and spend a few nights as well in the house creating an instant tight-knit family environment. Not just a few evenings of just being together either - a few evenings of a lot of really good food as well.

As everyone kicked the snow off their boots and clustered for big hugs, champagne was popped open in the kitchen [ The family room was closed off for the little ones for the time being - magically glowing in candle light covered and completely masked with a new facade of gifts and chocolates ] and a round of appetizers was set out with delicious fruits from Andreas' shop as well as cheeses and olives and other accompaniments.

[ A gift for Andreas that I found humorous and "very German" - A nice aged sausage hanging on the Weihnachtsbaum! ]

[ Omi and Opa together with Laura ]

After getting off of a skype call with Kaśka and Michał in Tarnów - a very special feeling for me being able to call family here in Europe and share greetings for Wigilia - I met with everyone in the kitchen and we shared a bit about all of our traditions - from my cousins in Poland waiting for the first star of the evening to start the celebrations, to my cousings in Michigan anxiously waiting for Santa Clause just like little Timmy and Laura were waiting for der Weihnachtsman.

[ The delicious salmon along with the homemade horseradish that Inge and I shed some tears over ]

[ Even the toaster had a seat at the Christmas dinner table! ]

Inge had prepared a Sebode family tradition of having many cold dishes for the evening with marinated salmon and beef and many other sides to go along with and Crème Fraîche and Caviar. I was able to share some details about Opłatek and sharing blessings with each other with our Polish traditions of Wigilia back home - yet this Weihnachten for me was a new experience to see things in a very new way.