Let the Christmas countdown commence

Usually once the 5th November is out the way I can start thinking about the C word but since Guy Fawkes night (when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament in London) isn’t recognised in Germany, plans for Christmas have commenced well in advance this year.

For any Expats planning on returning home for the festivities, planning early is key. I learnt this last year! When we moved to Bremen, I didn’t consider the different things we’d need to take in to account when returning home for a long period over the holiday season. First up, arranging the hire of a car. If you need to get around whilst you’re home book this as soon as you can. The car rental companies definitely do not see Christmas as the season of goodwill and rather the season to make money.

Cathedral Markt, Köln PHOTO: Sarah E

Now that we don’t have a base in UK we rely on family and friends letting us to stay, luckily they’re happy to be paid in festive cheer, otherwise there will be additional costs to the already expensive holiday season. It can be quite tricky bringing up these conversations as although you want to be organised early, not everyone knows their Christmas plans until the last minute.

Booking your flights early is also a good idea, we booked ours three months in advance – I did say I started thinking about Christmas early! As we now live in Germany I want to buy as many local products as gifts for people but that means returning with lots of heavy luggage. I would recommend booking your extra hold luggage when booking your flights as it’s often cheaper. Alternatively rely on Amazon to deliver to your first destinations in your home country and bring extra gifts for the host who is receiving all your unwrapped parcels.

Once all the early planning is complete, there’s lot of celebrations to enjoy in Germany. It’s like no where else at Christmas time. After experiencing my first Weihnachten in Germany in 2016 – saying this scares me a little as it shows how quickly time flies –  I feel much more prepared going in to the festivities. In recent years in the UK, most cities have welcomed a German Christmas market for the weeks leading up to the big day but they don’t come close to the real deal. Last year I visited three different Weihnachmarkts, Bremen, Oldenburg and Köln,  so I feel I have a much greater experience of what to expect this year. If you’re a newbie to you should check out Erin’s newbies guide to German Christmas markets, it has a great run down of the food, drink and activities you’re likely to encounter at a market.

Although I haven’t been to markets in other areas of Germany, it seemed like Köln take the attitude of ‘go big, or go home’ when it comes to Weihnachmarkt. It boasts the biggest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, and everywhere you turn in the city, there are Buden (wooden huts) full to the brim of Glühwein (similar to mulled wine), Eierlikör (similar to eggnog), Weihnachtsplätzchen (German Christmas cookies) and stollen (a heavy fruit cake). From the Dom (cathedral) market to the Angel market, there is so much going on. Generally the markets open the last weekend of November and run for four weeks so you have plenty of time to see them all in. You can read more about the history of German markets across the country.Sadly this year my Christmas market experience will be confined to Bremen but that’s good enough for me. From the city centre to the banks of the River Weser, the UNESCO heritage site will be transformed in to a winter wonderland.

If you read my previous post, you’ll know I’m a keen baker. This year I’m going to attempt to make some traditional German cookies with the help of a native baker. There are so many different ones to try, but as someone that’s allergic to nuts, Lebkuchen looks like the best option. If I’m lucky they will look similar to those on sale at the Weihnachtsmärkte and make great gifts for friends and family back in the UK. These ten German cookies were shortlisted by The Local as ‘must bakes’, what is on your list of favourite German Christmas cookies?

– Sarah E