Friday, January 4, 2013

Weihnachten in Marburg

Hello family and friends,
I hope you all had happy holidays, wherever you spent them.  I have to say that Christmas and New Year's went incredibly smoothly for us here in Marburg, despite the logistical challenges of trying to accommodate the needs and desires of 8 guests visiting during the last few weeks of December.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow of all of the feasting, touristing and general hanging out, I will just give the highlights, and to spread out the procrastination opportunities/keep me from monopolizing the computer too long, I will break this post into 3 parts.

Here is part one: Christmas in Marburg.  I half apologize for going off on tangents periodically.

First, the planning that took much of my spare brainpower as the holidays were approaching was figuring out what to eat for Christmas and Christmas eve.  Effectively, Germany shuts down for Christmas, and stores (including grocery stores) close mid-day on Christmas Eve and don't re-open until the 27 (because here, there are 2 days of Christmas, the 25 and 26).  One of the restaurants I wanted to take my family to (KostBar) was open on the 26, so that night was taken care of, thankfully, since our refrigerator is pretty tiny.  But I wanted us to cook and eat in our apartment on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and since we are in Germany, I wanted a German touch to the meals, so I started asking all of my German colleagues, friends and acquaintances what they typically eat for the holidays.
My mother with a Christmas Mouse bread, complete with hat. It may not be "traditional" (except at our favorite bakery) but it sure was yummy! (picture by Peter Keyel)

Some people eat pea soup, some people eat fondue, some people eat fish, but it was funny because everyone spoke about those things this way, "the tradition for many Germans is to have something simple on Christmas Eve like sausages with potato salad, although in my family the tradition is [some other food]".  Well, since what they actually ate varied, I decided the easiest would be to do what "everyone else" does and prepared to make potato salad, sausages and (sticking with the German theme) red cabbage with apples.  SO, about a week before Christmas, I checked to make sure that my favorite sausage stand at the Saturday market would be open.  I learned 2 things during my inquiry: 1. they would indeed sell sausages on the 22, and 2. I have become a Recognized Person by the woman who runs my favorite sausage stand.

In my defense, their Krakauer sausages are AMAZING, and well, also in my defense (lest you think that I am only feeding my husband sausages) I do often come in a bright yellow cycling jacket, put my food into paniers, and am an obvious foreigner who can speak tolerable German (most of the time).  BUT I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that not only did she recognize me, she gave me a little Christmas present of a package of sausage seasoning and a paring any case, after we go off our post-Christmas salad diet, I am sure I'll be buying more of those Krakauers, and I do need to try my sausage salt seasoning...

Oh, and my second market mission: I needed to find a piece of animal to cook for Christmas day.  SO, while I dearly love a Christmas goose, my mother said "in a toaster oven?? Are you crazy?" so we settled on a nice piece of cow.  And my mother said "howabout a nice rib roast?"  Should be easy, right?  Alas, German butchers cut their cows slightly differently, but I found a German Cow Cut image on the google, and went about trying to order a "Hohe Rippen" to be picked up on the 22. Somehow, they didn't understand what I was asking for, but asked me if I wanted a "roast beef" (sounding just like the English term) and I said sure.  Fast forward to the 22, and I picked up our 2.5 kg of "roast beef", which looked a bit different than what I expected, but it looked like cow, and it looked good.

With my mother in law's help, I acquired the necessary cheeses, vegetables, etc. from the various stands at the market, and even made it to the train station in time to meet my jet-lagged family in Frankfurt.

Well, I'm going to skip over showing off Marburg to Sasha's grandpa and aunt (who left before our Christmas merriment really got going) and other members of our collective family because, well, we've already told you about Marburg, and I'll doubtless have more time to talk about Marburg later.  So I'll skip right to Christmas Eve festivities.  Our family all gamely agreed to come to church with us, and we thought ahead and asked the pastor for the sermon in advance so we could translate for our families.  As it turns out, that was good but didn't go quite as we'd planned.  Normally, the church is relatively full, but there were 3 services instead of 1 on Christmas eve, so we didn't worry about getting there -too- early (although we didn't do our usual jog to get there before the bells stop, either) but oops.  But 10 minutes to the start of the service, the church was PACKED and the extra chairs and benches pulled in were full, too.  I guess a lot of Germans really are "Christmas and Easter" worshipers.  Now, I'm not trying to sound judgmental, I firmly believe that everyone needs to follow their own conscience when it comes to matters of faith, I just was a bit flustered to have my poor family standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a flock of Germans in the entryway without being able to give them more than a word or two of translation now and again.  Still, they were patient and even tried to sing along with some of the hymns (at least the ones we knew in English) and I translated the sermon later  over Christmas cookies, so it all worked out. 

After church, we headed back to the apartment to prepare for the meal.  My mother and mother-in-law had helped bake a few batches of cookies earlier, and helped prepare the food (and mulled wine) while Sasha directed the setup of our dining room.  Thanks to furniture borrowed from an out-of-town labmate (living in the same building) we even had chairs for everyone to sit on!!
Dinner, Christmas Eve (picture by Peter Keyel)

Dinner was delicious, and we had fun deciding which sausage was each person's favorite.  They were all pretty good, I guess, since there were no leftovers. There wasn't even any leftover cabbage!  Afterwards, we sat around singing all of our favorite Christmas carols, since they missed most of the good ones at church.  If our sense of tune was lacking at times, we made up for it with enthusiasm, and it was really fun.

 Everyone went to their hotel/guest apartment for the night, then came back in the morning for presents and such. 
Look at that loot, er, love being exchanged between family members...yes, those socks belong to Sasha and me...not everyone had stockings so we helped them out! (picture by Peter Keyel)

Awesome hand-made stuffed Bacillus subtilis from Sasha's mom...if you're jealous, she might take orders...I'm not sure what the price is (picture from Ted Keyel)

We spent the day hanging out and playing games, until it was time to start cooking dinner. Sasha's mom made Sasha's favorite food: "Yeast Rolls", and we made brussel sprouts with walnuts, roasted green beans and the "roast beef".  As for my somewhat mysterious cut of beef, my mother took one look at it and said: "I know what this is, it's a tenderloin".  Well, I can assure you that while the wallet may be thinner because of it, NOBODY complained when that came out of the oven.  YUM!!  Mom turned the drippings into a tasty sauce, and even the picky vegetable eaters among us loved the brussel sprouts and green beans.

We hung out eating cookies and drinking tea and playing games until bed time.  To me, the meaning of Christmas is love, and we had plenty of that to go around, with some left over to share with all of you, my distant friends and family.

Family!! (picture by Ted Keyel)

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