It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been away from Home. Yes, I haven’t been spending Christmas at my country home for like 7 years now. Living in Germany for almost 8 years now doesn’t mean I already forgot my hometown, Philippines. Although I really love Germany, nothing will ever compare to my hometown Philippines, where I was born and grew up, it’s where my families are, my parents and my sisters, relatives and friends. For me, that’s what the spirit of Christmas makes it really special. Well maybe I am just homesick but Christmas (or “Weihnachten” as they call it) in Germany is really different. Well, it’s like this… the preparation for Christmas in Germany starts on December 1, but some people in some parts of Germany already make preparations before December 1. During this day, kids receive their “Adventskalendar” which they have to open everyday until the 24th of December. Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Market can be found in all cities. This is celebrated during the four weeks of advent. Some cities like Augsburg, Dresden, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Stuttgart, are famous for their Christmas markets and are popular for tourist attractions during Christmas holiday season.
We also celebrate St. Nicholas Day in Germany (Nikolaus) which is held on the 6th day of December. It is tradition for kids to clean up their shoes the day before Nikolaus comes on the 6th day of December. Kids then receive small gifts from Nikolaus which are found on their shoes early in the morning. The “Advent” in Germany is observed every first Sunday of December where it is a tradition to prepare four candles on the table and one candle is lighted up on the first Sunday of December. On the 2nd Sunday of December, two candles are lighted up, 3 candles on the 3rd Sunday and four candles on the 4th Sunday. The Germans celebrate two Christmas nights. On the 24th of December, it’s tradition for Germans to go to church before the holy night or “der Heilige Abend“. After going to the church, we prepare dinner while kids are too excited to look for their gifts under the Christmas tree. Kids should wait for the adults to come before opening up their gifts, only until everyone is ready could we open up our gifts at the same time.Taken on the 24 December, at 6:30pm in Germany…
Dinner is served after opening of gifts. In Germany, we don’t serve too much on the table. We serve only what we could eat, as Germans prefer not to have left-out foods. Usually we eat something simple or traditional foods during Christmas. Typical foods like roast goose or duck stuffed with apples, chestnuts, onions or prunes, or red cabbage with onions and apple, while some people in other parts of Germany prefer to eat turkey, or beef, venison or wild boar. Any of these combined with boiled potatoes or dumplings makes the meal for Christmas special.
After dinner, kids still have time to play with their toys or gifts they received from Santa. The second day of Christmas is celebrated on the 26th of December, Germans call it “der zweite Weihnachtstag“. No more gifts, but we still spend dinner together on the holy night of December 26th. In some parts of Germany, some customs and traditions are still still observed on der zweite Weihnachtstag. While many of Germany’s Christmas cultures and traditions are adapted in many countries, Christmas in Germany for me remains special and unique.
In Philippines, Christmas preparation already starts even two or three months before Christmas. This is noticed when the month of September already starts. You may already notice on the malls Christmas lights and lanterns being sold and even on the streets, you will already find Christmas lights, lanterns or “parols” decorated in every corner of the street. A very nice report from CNN “The Philippines shows the world how to celebrate Christmas“, explains how Filipinos celebrate Christmas, and one of the worlds longest festive season in the Southeast Asian island nation. This is why Philippines always remains a mark in my heart, it leaves a special place that nobody or nothing could ever take its’ place. Not to forget decorating the Christmas trees at night at the month of September, the Simbang Gabi that we used to attend nine consecutive nights before Christmas, the smell of putobumbong on the street, the Christmas carols of the children heard in every street corner, and what makes it more special? My family, our get-together and dining together during the Nochebuena (Christmas Eve). My parents has to drive all the way from our province in Pangasinan, the northern part of Luzon to the southern part of Luzon in Cavite so we could all get-together and spend Christmas together. My parents normally serve bunch of foods on the table like lechon, putobumbong, bibingka, barbecue, suman, turkey, hamonado, leche flan, spaghetti, macaroni salad, quezo de bola, grapes, bananas, ripe mangoes, puto, pancit, pancito molo, and many more. This is very different in Germany, because Filipinos like to serve lots of foods on the table. Exchange gifts are also common, but for Filipinos, we don’t really mind of not receiving Christmas gifts. Although my parents never forget to give us gifts, we understand if we don’t receive any as we know and we are taught that there are lots of children on the street who starve and do not even receive gifts on Christmas. It is however important for us that we are altogether during Christmas. Our presence is very important as this is one very special occasion that we should all unite, an occasion we should not forget when Jesus Christ was born.