Germany: The Land of Christmas

Germany is undeniably the Land of Christmas. If you love this holiday, then this is the place for you at this time of year! The window displays of little shops are teeming with festive goodies, and gifts and lights decorate many buildings across the city.

The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market, near the Hertie School of Governance in Mitte. Glorious!

The Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market, near the Hertie School of Governance in Mitte. Glorious!

Christmas markets — a truly brilliant German invention and tradition — are all over Berlin as well. In German, Christmas markets are called Weihnachtsmarkt, and they’re essentially street markets that take place during the four weeks of Advent. They’re typically held outdoors in big public spaces, such as town squares, and they contain little booths/stalls that sell food, drinks, holiday items, treats and more. I have not been to nearly as many as I would like. They are just beautiful! Many of them put on a show involving singing or dancing of some kind as well. The “Gendarmenmarkt” Christmas market, which is just around the corner from the Hertie School, had a couple of acrobats on the stage one night.

The epic backdrop to the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market: Konzerthaus Berlin.

The epic backdrop to the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market: Konzerthaus Berlin.

One of the other popular attractions of Christmas markets is the Nativity Scene. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part of them yet… which is the delicious, hot Glühwein (spiced, mulled wine). You can sip on Glühwein in the crisp, fresh outdoor air while you enjoy the music, the show, the company of your friends and family and the many other people milling about in the holiday spirit. That’s really what makes them so special, they seem to be rooted in the tradition of community and to have been designed specifically to bring people together at this time of year. Germany has got these things down pat! I can’t wait to explore some more in the time I have left.

Friends and Glühwein!

Friends and Glühwein, after our German exam!

On December 6th, Germany and many other countries in Europe celebrate St. Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus, in German). From what I understand, St. Nicholas was known as a bringer of gifts, and so children put a boot outside of their bedrooms the night of December 5th. If they’ve been good, it’s filled with treats the next morning. My flatmates placed a little candy and chocolate by my door that I was pleasantly surprised with in the morning after some initial confusion. Just another of the many lovely Christmas traditions here!


More festive treats “vom Nikolaus” (from St. Nicholas) on the 6th of December, made by my flatmate Jule, who is simply brilliant in the kitchen.


She has also made her own homemade spiced syrup. This adds the special Glühwein flavor to hot wine. I can’t wait to try it!

German Christmas, of course, would not be complete without advent calendars. They can be found in all kinds of stores and some of them are huge.

I’m happy for the opportunity to experience how Christmas is celebrated outside of North America. Relative to an American Christmas, which I find has warped somewhat into a consumeristic, frenzied shopping spree that many people dread (deep-down), German Christmas seems to still have a deeper meaning, a respect for tradition, and is truly enjoyed (proof: Christmas markets).

So far it has snowed in Berlin only once, maybe twice, but very lightly, and none of it has stuck. I’m not sure whether Berlin gets a White Christmas but I am sure it would be just beautiful.

Taking a study break in the Hertie School cafeteria.

Taking a study break in the Hertie School cafeteria.

On a much less exciting note, it is final exam week at the Hertie School. Classes ended last week and examinations take place this week. Some final paper deadlines are the week or two after exam week, which gives students a bit more flexibility.

It’s really strange to think how fast time has gone! The semester was just beginning and now it’s almost all wrapped up. Luckily, the school is hosting one final event this semester, a Hawaiian-themed Christmas party, where we will also celebrate the end of exam week and close out the semester. I’ll be very sad to say farewell to the many new friends I have made, who are returning home in just a few days, and to say goodbye to this amazing experience. But, I won’t think about that until the time comes. For now, it’s best to keep enjoying the time that is left.

I hope everyone reading is enjoying the holiday season as well, wherever in the world you are. Take care and see you next week! Cheers!

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