Nikolaus I asked some students of mine about traditional Christmas food in Brazil. Usually they say, that there is no such thing as a traditional Christmas food. Panettone is a traditional cake you will find mostly during Christmas time and many families eat turkey. And since it is summer and usually very hot, fruits are eaten a lot too. Seems very healthy and light, especially when you compare it to Germany. Christmas preparation in Germany traditionally starts with the St. Martin’s goose and continues with cookies, “Stollen”, and chocolate in all variety and from. You better like chocolate in Germany, especially on December 6th because this is when Nikolaus comes to your house.
December 6th is the Saint’s Day of St. Nicholas (Wikipedia) who had a reputation for secret gift-giving which led to a funny form of celebration (Wikipedia) which I know best as putting candy (mostly chocolate of course) in the (empty) shoes of people. The whole ceremony goes like this: children are told that during the day or evening St. Nikolaus will come to their house together with his servant “Knecht Ruprecht”, who carries a burlap sack and a rod or a piece of wood. If the children had been good in the past year, they will receive gifts, if not they will be beaten by Knecht Ruprecht. And this is why in the beginning of December you can buy small burlap sacks filled with chocolates in many German stores, to give yourself (or your kids) an extra treat. And even though I have found burlap sacks and socks (which are sometimes used instead of shoes) in Brazil, nobody seems to know the tradition of giving candies.
Advent Sunday and the Christmas wreath
Advent Sunday and the Christmas wreath Advent time in Germany is a cold and dark time. This can’t be stressed enough. Today, December 20th and one day before the shortest day of the year, sunrise in Berlin had been at 8:15am and sunset at 3:54, which makes daytime a breathtaking small 7 hours and 40 minutes. That is less than a usual workday. You get the point, advent time is dark. And this is where the concept of “Gemütlichkeit” comes into play and it is only very roughly translated into coziness. “Gemütlichkeit” describes the effort to make your surrounding or your life comfortable and nice, to slow down a bit and enjoy life. And advent is a time to make your life cozy. This can be achieved with decorating your home, baking cookies (nothing nicer than the smell of fresh baked cookies on a Sunday afternoon in the house), but there is also the tradition of celebrating advent Sundays with coffee, cookies and Gemütlichkeit as well as having and Christmas wreath. The Chrismas wreath I see here in Brazil as well, but it is only used as a decoration usually hanging on doors. In Germany there are candles on the circle of fir-tree twigs and they are lit, starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas with the first candle, the third Sunday with the first and second and so on. In the end you have a wreath with four candles in different degrees of usage and nothing symbolizes the waiting for Christmas better than the view of these four candles.
Up next: what I really like about Christmas in Brazil.