1 January 2006
The European Christmas is much different from the American Christmas. In the United States, we start preparation for Christmas right after the end of Thanksgiving. In fact, I heard that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year because everyone really starts their Christmas shopping. For my family, that is when we start thinking about picking out a Christmas tree and setting up the Christmas decorations. In the U.S., pretty much the whole month of December is gift buying, decorating, food preparing. We almost bankrupt ourselves buying gifts and when the whole holiday season is finally over, we practically need another vacation because we are so worn out.
Not so in Germany... Although there are Christmas markets everywhere starting around the beginning of December, Christmas is not nearly as big a deal here. I only exchanged gifts with one friend besides Urs’ family and I didn’t even go to Urs’ house until the 23rd because we had classes through the 21st. We celebrated Christmas on the 24th by exchanging gifts (many fewer than in the U.S.) and then going to church. On the 25th, Urs and I went to another, bigger church service in Manheim to hear the orchestra that played the mass. Then we came back and had lunch with Urs’ grandmother. Both ways of celebrating are good I think, although I did miss our way a little. It was good for me to experience Christmas in Germany though, and actually, I think if it had been very similar to Christmas with my family, I would have been a lot more homesick.
Urs’ dad, Urs’ brother (Hans), and I went to go see the big church in Worms a couple days after Christmas. This kind of church, by the way, is called a Dom. A little church is called a Kirche, a medium sized church is called a Dom, and a massive church is called a Kathedrale. In 1521, the Edict of Worms, which declared Martin Luther a heretic, was issued here.
The next day, Urs’ dad and I went on a walk in a special park near Ludwigshafen that has a bunch of animals. It was so pretty because it had just snowed and it was fun to see all the animals. It was also nice to get out and walk around since we had been spending most of the time indoors.
I came back to Landau on the 29th and for New Year’s Eve, I celebrated with Mario, a friend of his, and Alex and his girlfriend. It was so much fun! Mario, his friend, and I hung out in Mario’s room for a little bit, then we went over to Alex’s apartment around 10. We stayed there until about 1 and then went to Logo (a club around the corner). We watched on T.V. for 12a.m. and then right at twelve we ate twelve grapes each for good luck. It is a Mexican tradition to do this. You have to eat one grape for every chime of the church bells (so about one grape every second) starting at twelve. The twelve grapes stand for twelve wishes, one for every month of the next year. After the grapes had been eaten, we went outside to see the fireworks. I couldn’t believe it, but people were setting off fireworks in the streets all over Landau (and probably all over Germany). I was surprised partly I think, because in Illinois it is illegal to buy fireworks without some kind of special permission, and also because I didn’t see any police out. There were so many fireworks and some of them would be set off wrong and go spiraling down the street or hit into buildings. Alex’s girlfriend and I were kind of afraid of getting hit by one. Logo was fun and the music wasn’t too bad, although I still think it’s funny to see Germans jamming it up to Surfing U.S.A. by the Beach Boys, and I didn’t get back to my room until almost 4 a.m.! Oh well, I ended up sleeping until almost noon (a new skill I seem to have acquired here) so today I’m not too tired.