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O Du Fröliche

January 1, 2023
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I love the holidays, and I have been looking forward to spending a Christmas season in Germany for a long time. After our disappointing first Weinachtsmarkt, I was determined to do better. Thankfully, this year there were *four* full weekends of Advent before Christmas so I had a lot of chances. But with over 60 Weinachtsmärkte in Berlin, it was hard to know which would be fun and which would not be!

2. Advent

The first weekend of December was the second of Advent and as it so happened, I crashed a friend’s work trip in Paris – so I got to go to markets in two countries. Also I had never been to France, so I walked up the first two platforms of the Eiffel Tower. (It was too rainy for it to be worth the ticket for the top. Also I wish you could walk all the way up to the top!)

On my return, I went directly from the airport to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Peter & kids with the hopes of ice skating at the Rotes Rathaus. Sadly, the Eisbahn line was a mile long, they were underdressed for the cold, and they had already been to a concert that morning – so we decided not to wait for the next skating session. Instead, we rode on the ferris wheel and the swings and bought more sugary food and Glühwein. It was fun but some of us were still not fully satisfied by the experience due to lack of ice time.

Nikolaustag

The next morning was St. Nikolaus Day, when children shine their shoes (or their biggest boots) and leave them out for the magical Bishop to fill with treats. Their boots are getting so big!! What is cool here, is that you can get a chocolate Nikolaus that is distinct from a chocolate Weinachtsman (Santa) – Nikolaus was a Catholic Bishop and wears a robe, different from the US version of St. Nick where they are conflated.

3. Advent

For the third weekend of Advent, we had to do some baking for the third grade. Schatzi’s class was doing an Advent calendar of daily treats, and Schatzi signed up to bring cookies on Tuesday. Then her birthday was on Thursday, for which we were on the hook to bring another treat for the whole class AND provide a birthday cake for her party in the afternoon. This got even more fun when Peter forgot to add sugar to the cake batter. At least we got the cookies done! And then we went to Schloss Charlottenburg, another fancy royal palace, which also had a Weinachtsmarkt in front of it. I didn’t take a lot of photos of the market but we had a nice time touring the palace and consuming more sugar.

Geburtstag

Schatzi’s birthday is just far enough away from Christmas to be separate and not during the vacation time. She wanted to decorate her chocolate cake with lots of sprinkles and have a scavenger hunt prepared by her big sister, and that’s what we did. We also asked friends from far away to send cards so that she’d have a lot of mail on her birthday, and it worked! Thank you! She had a fantastic 9th birthday.

Family Brewery

Another outing to fit into the December schedule was a trip out to Flessa Braü, the microbrewery of a distant family member on Peter’s mother’s side of the family. Peter and I took our bikes into Prenzlauer Berg to track down some beer and merchandise for ourselves and for gifts. Best IPA I’ve had on this continent – fermentation is in the family DNA!

4. Advent

For our final weekend of Advent we tried out the eco-market at Domäne Dahlem, a farm museum not too far away. Highlights: They have live pigs! There was a fire show! There was a brass quartet! Also delicious Bio-Glühwein and crepes, and lots of beautiful handcrafted gifts. I found a pair of legwarmers to complete my urban winter gear, the kids made (more) ornaments at a free kid crafting station, and we all had a good time. Then we watched the World Cup final, which was exciting but not heart-wrenching.

Bonus outing: Ice skating redemption

After the last day of school, I took the kids back to Alexanderplatz to see if we could get out on the Eisbahn. I figured Wednesday afternoon would not be as crowded as a weekend, but it was still good that we got in line 30 minutes early. It was quite magical to be on the ice at the end of the shortest day of the year (sunset: 3:54pm local time) and skate underneath the lights and the Fernsehturm, with cheesy pop music blasting.

And this is now so long, that I will have to put *actual* Christmas into another post…until soon!

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