See the title above for how excited I am about Christmas this year. If you happen to know how excited I was last year to go to Germany and introduce my baby to friends and family, then double that. Wait, triple it. Minus the fact that I won’t get to see my family this year. But – this is gonna be my boy’s first Christmas that he will consciously experience with our little family’s first tree ever in our first house ever. Thinking back to my own childhood and how excited I got every year for Christmas I can only imagine how much fun he will have with all the lights and am on a mission to make it the most memorable first Christmas in history.

Christmas to me is all about family, friends, and love. Call me a helpless romantic, but I get all sentimental and lovey-dovey in December when it’s dark and cold outside, warm and fuzzy inside of the home, the radio stations play cheesy Christmas classics, people put up lights, cozy up with their loved ones … sigh! This is the time of the year when my pragmatically wired brain gets a rest and the rarely expressed emotional side of Nicola has free reign. Nobody knows about this, but it is pretty likely for me to spontaneously get teary-eyed from fuzzy feelings when driving in my car and listening to Christmas classics.

Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that I am a little bit of a Christmas opportunist. I fully indulge in the romantic spirit that comes with it, but am not too much into celebrating the religious reason for it nor into consuming tons of expensive goods. Not even for the sake of this sad economy. As far as the birth of Jesus is concerned, I think it’s totally cool that people still think back to such a significant event and celebrate it in one of the finest holidays on earth, but I’m not gonna lie and say that that’s on my mind a lot during December. If you really want to know my my humble opinion – there are so many good reasons and ways to celebrate love that it doesn’t really matter how and why you do it. Just show some loving for each other.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk business. Here is how Christmas goes down in the Tran’s house. Well, this is the first time we actually have our own house to celebrate Christmas in, so there will be a lot of firsts for us this year. First time impatiently waiting for Thanksgiving to be over so that Christmas decorations can be put up and almost starting to happy dance at work because Lincoln gave in and let me put up stuff 5 days before Thanksgiving. First time (in my life ever) to have an artificial Christmas tree. First time keeping Milo from taking down ornaments from the tree. The list goes on ….

But over the past few years of our young marriage we also established some original Bieringer-Tran fusion traditions that are made to last. The great thing is that we can pull traditions not only from 2 different families that we grew up in, but also from 2-3 different cultures. In Germany Christmas time starts four Sundays before December 24th. It’s called Advent and is the time of anticipating Christmas. Every of the the four Sundays people light up an additional candle on their advent wreath until all four are burning by Christmas. (Of course they are not kept burning the entire time, only when attended. Mostly for long and cozy Sunday morning breakfasts.) This is what a traditional advent wreath looks like on the first Sunday in Advent:

During Advent the Germans bake many many Christmas cookies. These are made according to special recipes that you won’t find during the rest of the year. Cinnamon, nuts, and chocolate are typical ingredients. Find a version of my favorite cookie recipe by clicking on the picture:

Next thing is the Advent calendar. It comes in many different forms and levels of creativity. The basic model is just two pieces of paper with the cover sheet having little doors cut out and the sheet behind showing picture of winter scenes. It can also have chocolates behind the doors, or really take on any 3dimensional shape like this for example:

All of them boil down to having 24 doors, socks, boxes, envelopes, or bags that hold little goodies like sweets or small toys. Every morning of December the kids are allowed to open one of them (with the number of the day’s date) until Christmas Eve is here.

Then, on December 6th we have the day of Saint Nikolaus, a guy who must be somehow related to the American Saint Nick. Basically, he was a very good man who helped people in need, gave away gifts, and died on December 6th. Read the whole story here. So, in Germany all kids polish their shoes or boots on December 5th, then put them outside of the front door and hope that they were good enough for Saint Nick to put some goodies in there. The next morning everyone gets up really excited to find some small gift, nuts, oranges, and chocolates in their boots.

Can you believe how much anticipation all of these traditions build up by the time Christmas is finally here? No wonder that with my 31 years I still get so excited about it. Christmas in Germany, by the way, is on December 24th. Christmas Eve. That’s the main big deal. It’s when families get together in their homes, sit by the real pine tree singing Christmas carols (at least my Mom was trying to keep the singing up until the bitter end), having a festive meal, and exchange gifts. So, whenever we are in the US for Christmas we are having Linc’s immediate family over on Christmas Eve for a three course meal and do the big gift exchange one night before all other Americans. And then it’s American Christmas again the next morning! I am in the process of making stockings for the three of us and will fill them with a small gift on Christmas Day. Hm, that’s only one American tradition. Can you tell that I am the big Christmas tradition initiator in our family? What other things do Americans do for Christmas that I am missing?