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A Christmas in Berlin – and New Years Too!

02 Jan

Hello everybody! I may have made the mistake of waiting too long to write this post…I figured it would be a good idea to wait until after Christmas was over before writing, but now there are so many different things I want to tell you about! But allow me to start at the beginning.

During my last week of classes before the holidays, I accompanied a grade six class on a field trip. We headed first to a Christmas Market by Potsdamer Platz, where the kids got to play a few ice games and slide down a snowy hill in tubes. I’m pretty sure they all had a great time, despite the bitter cold wind that kicked in about halfway through our two hours outside.

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We first got to Potsdamer Platz by train, and I found that riding a train with 24 students and two teachers on it was a very enjoyable gongshow. It was a bit stressful making sure everyone had boarded, but I loved the happy chaos of it all.

After our time outside, we headed to Legoland. The kids had taken part in a competition to raise awareness against smoking, and their prize was this trip. For a free trip, I found it extremely enjoyable – there were a few fun “4D” movies to see, a small ride to go on, and naturally lots of cool Lego structures. There was one room with lots of famous buildings in Berlin built from Lego, and that was exceedingly impressive.

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I got to know the other two teachers a bit better, which was nice since I hardly ever talk to them outside of class. We went on the little ride with two of the students – the ride was very slow with lots of Lego structures to see, and at the end during the “scary part” a photo was taken. I pulled off one of my notoriously-good horrified facial expressions, but regretted it a bit when one of the students actually bought the photo to remember her lovely time at Legoland. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.

That Friday was the staff Christmas party, which was hosted at a restaurant. I ran into one of the teachers on the train, and had a very proud moment when I knew where the restaurant was better than he did (thank you, google maps). The restaurant was Bavarian, and my female coworkers pointed out that it was very manly with all the mounted deer heads and tons of meat on the menu. But the Christmas decorations were lovely, the food was tasty, and someone made the mistake of bringing chocolate and putting the bowl beside me. I also got to have a few good conversations (albeit in English – the teachers were thrilled to be able to practice) and established one of them as a crocheting buddy for the new year.

On that Saturday, Sebastien and I were able to meet up with some good friends that were in Berlin for a brief time. We went to the Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market and were able to spend a few hours walking around before it started to get dark and therefore busy. I was able to try a few foods I hadn’t had the chance to last time I was at the Market, such as “Langos” – a deep-fried bread with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. It was amazing. We also went to a brewery in the area for a drink and a chat, and a great time was had by all.

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On Sunday Sebastien and I attended a karaoke birthday party. Those of you who know me well will know that I kicked it at “Baby Got Back”, and for something new I pulled off a wicked “Grace Kelly” by Mika too.

Monday was the 23rd, and so began the Endreekat Christmas family festivities! We headed over to Sebastien’s parents’ house in the afternoon, and I got a chance to meet Pupping – a friend who always joins the family for Christmas. The word “Puppe” means “doll” in English, so “Pupping” is basically the equivalent of “Dolly”. We began by decorating the newly-bought Christmas tree all together, and then enjoyed tea and baked goodies. After that, Pupping gave me my very first lesson in crocheting – we were able to complete a cellphone case for Sebastien by the end of it (which Santa mysteriously placed in his stocking a few days later).

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The next day was Christmas Eve! In Germany, this means something quite different from what it means in Canada. At home, my family tradition has always been to go bowling on Christmas Eve. There’s a family with which we go every year, and have been doing since I was 2 years old – this was sadly the first year I was unable to make! We even have t-shirts that say “Christmas Eve Bowling League” on the back, and our names on the front. While it began as a way to wear out us kids before going to bed on Christmas Eve, it now has been a lead-up to going back to my Dad’s house for chili and meatballs and fooseball. On Christmas Eve I’m allowed to open one present, and then Santa comes during the night to fill our stockings (just for those of you that don’t know the drill!)

In Germany, Santa actually comes during the afternoon on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts, and children usually must perform a song or dance for him before they get their presents. We went to Sebastien’s parents’ house early in the day, and after sitting down to tea at a very well decorated table, we had a bit of a concert.

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There were lots of piano performances, as well as some violin, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, and small pipes. Any guesses as to who performed what? In any case, Santa unfortunately was a bit too late for the performance – but we luckily got our presents anyway.

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Once Santa came, we all opened our gifts. I was definitely spoiled! Received a puzzle, a beginners crochet kit, and a popcorn maker (finally I can have buttered salty popcorn again!) – amongst other things. We then had a delicious Raclette dinner, and played a few games (most notably, Telephone Pictionary). It was a lovely way to spend Christmas!

On Christmas Day, Sebastien and I still kept up a few of my home traditions. I had saved my gifts from my family for that day, and opened them in the morning. It also appeared that Santa remembered to come back that night and fill my stocking, because I received a new book and some goodies from him. We got the chance to Skype both my parents, and spent a lot of time relaxing. That night, Sebastien and I cooked our own duck! It turned out extremely well, and we enjoyed it with corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

In Germany, the 26th isn’t Boxing Day, but instead “Second Christmas Day”. We went back to Sebastien’s parents’ house for the evening, to socialize and have a nice dinner. I had just about finished my new crocheted hat by the end of it! I don’t think anyone would go shopping on the 26th the way that people in Canada do, although since then I have noticed quite a few sales in stores.

On the 27th, we drove to Lenzen to see Sebastien’s grandparents. Lenzen is an extremely small town, about 3 hours away from Berlin. It was lovely to see his grandparents again, and I think my German has improved a lot since I saw them last summer. I also completed my crocheted hat, and got a lot of knitting done on my scarf.

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Once we returned home, we took it pretty easy for a few days. As for New Years Eve, one of our friends had generously offered for us to have a small party at their house to celebrate. First thing in the morning that day, the fireworks slowly began. In Germany, it becomes legal to buy fireworks on about December 27th up until New Years Eve. And on the day, you are legally able to set them off from 6pm on or so. There weren’t exactly a lot of people enforcing the time designation, and the fireworks began in earnest as soon as the sun was beginning to set. It was quite the amazing thing to hear so many going off all the time – and it was nice when you got to watch them. The unfortunate part was that often, the only people able to see them were the ones that lit them since there were so many buildings.

In any case, we headed out for our party at 8 or so. It was a fairly small group of people, and we talked and danced. I was excited to find out that the hostess had a doggie, and we were glued together for part of the night. At midnight, we went outside to see the fireworks and light off some of our own. It was absolutely insane; fireworks everywhere! They were going off from all sides of us. It was quite the sight to see! The following pictures aren’t good quality by any means (fireworks usually don’t photograph well!) but I was trying to capture how they were absolutely everywhere. In one picture, you can see the sparklers that a few girls and I are holding up.

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Eventually we went back inside to continue the party. I got to partake in a neat New Years tradition; you lay a piece of thin metal on a spoon and melt it. Then, you toss the metal into a bowl of cold water, and the metal takes on a shape. The shape would then depict something that would characterize your New Year. My metal turned into a hedgehog/snail/bug – I can’t remember what a hedgehog means, but a bug means “you will have new love in 2014”. Seb and I aren’t worried though – we figure it means I’ll get a dog. I would love that!

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I managed to get home in time for Calgarian New Years, although by then it was time to go to bed instead of celebrate all over again.

And so we reach New Years Day. I’m doing great with my resolutions so far: write more blogs, play bagpipes every day (I played yesterday, and will play in a short while), and finish up my university applications (I am now halfway through). I also intend on finishing the puzzle I started right after Christmas, and doing lots of knitting. Perhaps those aren’t proper resolutions, but I figure my chances of going through with them are pretty good!

And so concludes the blog about my Christmas and New Year in Germany. There are things I missed about not being at home, but it was fun to take this year as a chance to try something completely new. I’m so lucky that Sebastien’s family welcomed me for the holidays, and I had no shortage of fun things to do and see.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope your holiday season was filled with good times with loved ones 🙂

Frohes Neues Jahr!

-Robyn

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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