Germany is a secular country, despite the anachronistic church tax. It is also a diverse country. So when I prepared for my Preschool English sessions last week, I could safely assume that not everyone would be celebrating Christmas. I chose a winter topic rather than a religious one. A lesson with an abridged version of Frosty the Snowman and a carefully controlled target practice involving Styrofoam snowballs and a pyramid of paper cup snowmen is a hit. We make snowmen greeting cards and only two kids want me to write Merry Christmas on their cards. When I ask them about the holidays, they tell me it will snow, which it almost certainly won’t, but I don’t tell them that, of course. Everyone is united in a fervent belief in snow. I wish them happy snowy holidays.
Not unlike in the U.S., most people here wish each other “Schöne Feiertage” rather than “Frohe Weihnachten”. That said, Christmas traditions are alive and well, and for the local Christmas Market the medieval part of the city is cozy with beautifully decorated wooden booths selling everything from gingerbread to salmon baked on open fire pits. People stand huddled together close to the fire sipping mulled wine out of ceramic cups—no plastic anywhere in sight. The accent is on relaxed togetherness, on lighting up the darkness. There are candles everywhere these days, even in shop windows. Real candles.
This morning, on my way for some last-minute shopping, I hear my favorite holiday greeting so far: “Ich wünsch’ dir was.” I wish you something. Something good.
I paint and write and live mostly in a country of my own making. I've shown my work at cafés and galleries in the US, Spain, France and Germany. Among my children's books are El Loro Tico Tango (The Parrot Tico Tango), El Fandango de Lola (Lola's Fandango), both published by Barefoot Books, and the stories for the Tikitiklip Precolombino series of children's videos (Producciones Ojitos, Santiago de Chile).