Keeping and Making Christmas Traditions As An Expat

After travelling to quite a few different places around the December/January period in my lifetime, I’ve come to the conclusion that Germany really is the king of Christmas. They do everything so well and for the month of December (and a little bit of November too) they make the cold weather feel almost enjoyable because of a simple little invention called the Weihnachtsmarkt.

The Christmas markets in Frankfurt
Even the decorations around the markets are beautiful
Buildings are turned into advent calendars!

For those of us who aren’t that advanced in our German classes it’s also referred to as the Christmas markets. Just a 10 minute walk from my house are rows and rows of stalls selling every kind of sweet you can imagine, as well as most European specialties and store after store of slightly different but equally tasty mulled wine.

Mulled wine, or Gluhwein, by the gallon

I’ve become somewhat of an expert on these markets in Frankfurt; i know where the best nuts are, the best kartoffelpuffer, the most amazing crepes (which come encased in wafers!) and the most unforgettable currywurst and fondue. Not to mention the Raclette, and the Finnish food, and the fruit covered in chocolates, and the waffles that i have to admit put Belgian ones to shame…

The main Christmas tree in Stuttgart – every
town has one and decorates it uniquely

Anyway this is one of the reasons why Germany really is the most amazing place to be at Christmas time. Being away from home is hard enough around this period, but a friend who lives in England and is currently travelling in Australia noted to me how little we celebrate it in my former home compared to in Europe. I argued at first but the truth is i never noticed before that the Christmas lights aren’t as much of a regular feature in the streets, there are certainly no markets, and I hadn’t even heard of mulled wine or christmas jumper nights out until i left down under.

My first two Christmases away from my parents were spent with families of friends I had made in London. Doing it this way made me feel like this time of year was still a family time, even if the only time i’d have with my own family was skyping twice to take into account the different time zones.

But my mum made me feel special by sending me loads of presents, and one year helping me out with some Christmas shopping money when I was particularly poor, and suddenly the traditions I knew so well before were changing. Yorkshire pudding worked its way into my Christmas lunch. Sitting in pj’s watching the rain/snow outside while we snuggled up with movies and board games became the norm. And mulled wine was suddenly one of my very favourite things about the holiday season.

Now the tables are turning – my family are coming to me in Frankfurt for Christmas. After the initial complaints from my father over the weather and my sister finding it concerning that she might miss out on some social engagements back home they are now all packed and preparing to fly out tomorrow. With plans to do a Australian and German Christmas as one, bringing in some Russian traditions from my boyfriend as well, it’s going to be a day like we’ve never experienced before.

The funny thing about it is that Christmas used to be the one day I would absolutely insist must be the same every year. When I was younger, we had to do everything exactly as the year before or it wouldn’t feel like it was really Christmas at all. One year my parents insisted we go out, and I was car sick on the way. I made them promise never to do it again and though my mum hates cooking she begrudgingly agreed that vom on such a day didn’t make for a great time.

And now here I am, learning to cook чебуреки (if you can pronounce that without being Russian you win a gold star), planning to show everyone around Frankfurt and beyond and trying to find a copy of Love Actually in English but with German subtitles. I guess some traditions you will always insist on keeping – opening my presents in the morning as though Santa’s been and spending time with a family, even if it’s not mine, will always make Christmas what it is for me – but some traditions, as I live abroad for longer, I realise can be bent and changed and have things added in to make what becomes an even better time than I ever hoped for.

Frohen Weihnachten wunsche ich Euch allen! :) xx