Having the opportunity to live in different countries among other cultures lends itself to a variety of learning experiences. Some are, uh, interesting (try Japan’s love motels or squatty potties). We like to take with us small traditions from each place we live. From Japan it was Children’s Day and the flying of carp flags:
With Christmas, however, it is a little bit of a different story, as the Japanese don’t recognize Christmas as a holiday. You might find some Christmas lights hanging around, but that’s about it. (Needless to say I REALLY missed home during Christmas when I was in Okinawa.) But the Germans? Completely different story! They have lots of traditions around this time of year, and we have had so much fun learning about them!
One of the traditions is Saint Nikolaus Day (Sinterklaas). On December 5th kids leave one of their boots/shoes outside for Saint Nikolaus. If they have been good, they get some small gifts inside when they wake up the next morning. This year my husband was TDY on the 6th and my son was sick, so we didn’t participate, but our little German neighbor, whom we lovingly call Granny, came over and dropped off a burlap bag filled with handmade socks for both of my boys, along with candy and fruit. Incredibly sweet!
Down in the square of our little town Saint Nikolaus was scheduled to make an appearance! There was even an American one that spoke English just for the English speaking children! Unfortunately, my son was very sick that day, so we weren’t able to see Sinterklaas. He was very bummed about that. But it will definitely happen next year!
One thing I love about Germany is all of the woodwork. Germans are incredible craftsmen, whether it’s something as large as built in furniture or something as small as laser cut ornaments. Many wooden Christmas decorations are found adorning German homes this time of year, including one of these little contraptions:
It’s called a Weihnachtspyramide, or a Christmas Pyramid. Apparently they have been around since the 18th century. It’s made up of three or four tiers: wise men on the bottom, shepherds in the middle, angels on the top and the Christ child. The heat from the lit candles cause the propeller on top to spin, which causes the figures in each tier to spin as well. My son actually learned about this in German class and taught me about it before I even got one. Once he told me what it did, I had to get one for the family! You will find large versions of them at most Christmas markets as well. So cool!
Here it is in action:
What are some Christmas traditions you’ve adopted over the years?