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Advent, Advent ...

Germans celebrated the first Sunday in Advent on 2 December, something we don't really do in the United States unless one lives in a big German community. I've seen German-type celebrations in the Midwest, but nothing like back in Germany.

Advent is, of course, a religious-based observance, and not everyone goes to church ... I know many of my German friends don't! On the secular side, a big highlight on a Sunday afternoon is to invite friends for Kaffee und Kuchen, cake and coffee. There are many types of baked goods available during the Christmas season, and I personally have tried many of them. Germans (men & women!) will bake elaborate Christmas cookies, called, fittingly, Weihnachtsgebäck, some easy to make, some incredibly difficult. All using butter, of course, and what calorie bombs they are!

When I lived in Bavaria, I experienced Advent with a German family who liked to sing. I was roped into singing some Christmas songs (not carols as we know them), and it was an awful lot of fun. The younger children also played instruments, such as a recorder, and a good time was had by all.

In Germany, the Christmas season, though becoming more hectic each year, is still less commercial, and more thoughtful than in the United States. Germans have an Adventskranz, an advent wreath, with four candles on it for each Sunday, and those candles litle one by one, each week until the last Advent Sunday comes. The German word that is often used for this time is "besinnlich," which can mean tranquil or contemplative. It's not all about the shopping and the presents. To this day, some families make their Christmas presents for each other.

Another thing to do on the Adventssonntage (Sundays in Advent) is a trip to the local Weihnachtsmarkt, the Christmas market. Now, these Christmas markets are definitely commercial, with vendors selling tree decorations, items that would make good presents, and food and drink. Glühwein, a hot mulled wine, is very popular, and very potent, especially on a cold afternoon! There is also a drink called Punsch, which can be made with and without alcohol. Kinderpunsch is definitely made without alcohol. Honigmet is a mead drink, which I have never sampled, but my friends swear is great. I'll take their word for it!

What the Germans call "die Vorweihnachtszeit", the Christmas season, is a great deal of fun, and I wish I could be there right now, with or without the Glühwein. It is a time for friends and family, anticipation, and winding down the year, because Silvester (New Year's Eve) will soon be here.

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