Happy Advent

I am not homesick for Germany*. There must have been something in my eyes this weekend, when I attended the Toronto Christmas Market. Something strange happened as we walked past the huts selling ornaments and decorations from the Black Forest. These waves of memories, of all the Christmas markets I have visited in Germany, of my first forays into German culture, of Bratwurst and Glühwein and Füßgängerzonen, they all hit me out of nowhere. And then, of course, there was a kind lady from Marbach (near Stuttgart, my German home) selling Butterbrezeln (buttered soft pretzels). The Butterbrezel was my undoing. Tears ensued.

Anyone who has lived in southern Germany will understand. Brezeln are staples of the southern German diet. Butterbrezeln can be substituted for any mealtime, eaten at the table in polite company or scoffed in the car on the way to work. Despite their popularity in the south of the country, good ones are remarkably difficult to find elsewhere. And although many Americans will claim to have eaten “soft pretzels” at county fairs and shopping malls, these do not compare with the German version – the original is irreplaceable.
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Germany’s Colonial Past

Today is the German national holiday, known as German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). October 3 only became a holiday in 1990 after German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before that, East Germans celebrated their national day on October 7, the date of the founding of the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Few West Germans could have told you the date of the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (May 23, 1949), and there was no West German equivalent of the American Fourth of July. Even the October 3 observance is pretty tame compared to Independence Day in the US. Nationalistic flag-waving is not really a German thing (except at soccer matches).

So it comes as a bit of a surprise, even to most Germans, to learn of Germany’s colonial past. Unlike Britain, Spain, Portugal and other European powers, Germany (Prussia) came late to the colonial game. Nevertheless, the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) extended its reach to territories located in Africa, the South Pacific and even China. Continue reading