Tis the Season

We LOVE Christmas. The music, the food, the decorations, the feeling of hope and happiness that the season brings- it’s one of the best times of the year. And no where does Christmas quite like Germany. The Christmas Markets that pop up all over the city come the end of November are one of our favorite things about living in this country. We made it to quite a few of the markets this year including Alexanderplatz, Potsdammerplatz, the Kulturbrauerei and the one down in Potsdam with it’s special Polish theme. Beautiful booths with some unique goods as well as some yummy Polish cuisine! When we were down there we also took a stroll around the grounds of Schloss Sanssouci to work off all the tasty treats.

Polish Food! Potsdam Fun in Potsdam

It’s a little sad to bid the markets “tschüss” now that the season has come to an end, but we frequented them plenty these past few weeks as well as enjoyed a variety of other Christmas parties, fests and traditions.

The conclusion of Thanksgiving means it’s Christmas music season. Dave and I both have a fondness for Amy Grant’s rendition of the Christmas classics- though we have different CDs we grew up listening to- so we heard a lot of her the past few weeks. We also spun through all the other hits via our ipods and 8Tracks playlists. These tunes are always best enjoyed with some fresh baked Christmas cookies and a glass of hot cocoa or glühwein.


The start of the advent season also calls for an Advent Calendar- again something Germany excels at! There are so many varieties of calendars and people get pretty creative with homemade ones as well. We went with a childhood favorite of mine- Playmobile and had a lot of fun alternating days in which we could open a new window and add some figures to our Christmas scene.

Advent Calendar

Christmas season also brought about good times with friends and we were able to celebrate on numerous occasions including a dinner party hosted by Max and Sachiko, the staff Christmas party at Phorms and a festive evening at my colleague and friend Sandra’s place. Always so nice to share in the festive spirit with good friends!

Phorms Fun

One of the major perks of working in education is the break between Christmas and New Years- always a much needed period of rest, relaxation and recharging of batteries. I finished up work on Friday the 21st and have a break until January 2nd! We decided to celebrate the holiday in Berlin this year and have been having a grand old time doing absolutely nothing!

The one big plan we came up with was to celebrate by coordinating and cooking “9 Feasts of Christmas”.  Why 9?  Who knows? Unfortunately I contracted a gross bacterial infection on my tonsils which put a little damper on excessive eating, but one visit to the doctor and a Penicillin prescription later we were back on track. We didn’t quite make it to 9, but did get in 7 delicious feasts. We rated and debated and decided that the top three were:

1. Christmas Day Feast- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy etc…

Christmas Day Feast

2. Americana- buffalo wings, cheese burger and fries (The burgers were so good we forgot to stop and take a picture!)

America Baby

3. Deutschland- schnitzel, spätzle and German beer (Dave’s pick)
3. Small Bites Feast- jalepeno popper dip, stuffed mushroom caps, salami, cheese, crackers and olives (Adrian’s pick)


Small Bites

As you can tell food plays a big role in our holiday celebrations and all of the feasts were fun to plan (and eat!).

As the big day approached we finished up last minute preparations and gift wrapping and then spent Christmas Eve enjoying a variety of Christmas movies and drinking hot tea and coffee on the couch. In the evening we headed down to the American Church in Berlin to celebrate the real reason for the season and had a great time at their beautiful candlelight service. In additional to all the wonderful songs the pastor’s sermon was particularly compelling and focused on the theme of hope. After the service concluded we headed home for fondue, champagne and our favorite film- It’s a Wonderful Life.

The next morning we woke up, made breakfast and got down to opening stockings and gifts. Santa was particularly good to us this year:) Our favorite gift would probably have to be the awesome projector from Al and Melissa. We’d been thinking about getting one for awhile and we have to say watching movies projected up on our living room wall definitely beats a computer screen! Thanks again for such a great gift! We also got a great box of baking goods you just can’t find in Germany and some sweet gifts from my parents. I love my new Packers sweatshirt!

Christmas Day Santa Came! Opening gifts!

Go Pack Go! Awesome Stocking Stuffers! Smoking Frosty

We also got some new books, movies, picture frames, a few beautiful sweaters and scarfs and much more! My big gift from Dave was a trip up north to a lakeside village called Waren. We left the on the 26th for a two night stay in a classy hotel called Hotel Harmonie. The hotel features saunas, steam rooms and spa services and a massage was included in my gift! We had a great couple of days relaxing in the saunas, playing games, walking around the old city center of Waren and hiking the surrounding lakes- completing a 10K hike Friday morning! It was wonderful to get outside the city, see another part of Germany and spend a few days in a pretty, peaceful spot.

Waren Jumping Shot Hotel Harmonie Old Town Waren Floating Fish Restaurant

Dave likes the busty mermaid Lake Scene

Dave and Adrian Yum- lake fish sampler plate

We got back to Berlin late on Friday and have been enjoying our new projector, munching on leftovers and enjoying the last few days of 2012. We’re headed to a dinner party at Saskia and Mathieu’s apartment to ring in the New Year and then will try to catch some of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl on the 1st before I have to return to work on the 2nd.

2012 has been a wonderful year. It was our first full year in Berlin and we saw and did so much. The major highlight has to be our engagement in March, but we have a lot of close seconds: our 8 week trek across the States visiting both coasts, the mid-west and attending 3 awesome weddings, the trip to Ireland for Dave’s birthday, the trip to Spain for Adrian’s birthday, family and friends visiting this Fall, exploring all the beer gardens of Berlin this past summer, Dave’s ski trip to the Alps, trips around Germany and Poland, Adrian finding a job at Phorms and many more!!  We’re pretty damn lucky and quite thankful for all that 2012 brought, but are pretty sure 2013 is going to blow 2012 out of the water! Bring on the New Year!

Christmas Traditions

Though we just celebrated our 5 year anniversary last month, this will be the first Christmas Dave and I spend together.  We’re both sad that we won’t be with our families for the holiday, but are looking forward to creating new traditions together.  We got our tree (more like a mini-shrub) this past week and decorated it with some of the ornaments we’ve picked up on our European travels.

Christmas Shrub

In thinking about new traditions we’d like to start this year we got talking about our favorite traditions from Christmases Past. We thought it would be fun to do a joint post and share some of our individual favorites!

We even have music to set the mood as you read…


The best Christams tradition is spending time with family… my family also happens to be obsessed with doing things exactly the same every Decemeber. We have a set schedule that we rarely ever waver from, we eat the same exact foods every year, we have the same people with us in the same place, and of course, we always tell the same jokes.

One Christmas tradition I love is on Christmas eve, we always go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to eat cheese fondue. Bo and Kristie always make three different kinds of fondue: Parmasen, Swiss and Cheddar. Every year, each member of the family ranks the cheese sauce in order of which they liked, from best to worst. You would think that since we have the same cheese every year, people would always have the same order, but it usually changes for some reason (yes we actually record what people say, we’re very interested in rating and debating in my family).  When we were younger, the kids used to perform a Christmas pageant, where we would act out scenes from the story of Christmas. We have grown a little too old for that tradition though, so now we just sing Christmas carols. My cousin Anina posted a youtube video of our singing one year, but to avoid embarrassment I won’t link to it here (we are somewhat tonally challenged).

Another one of my favorite traditions is the way my family gives gifts. Instead of putting “Love: Dave” on the tag, we include a hint to what might be in the gift. For instance, if I bought someone a new kitchen knife, I might put “From: Martha Stewart”. I usually get a gift from Dan and Paul Hackett or from Terry Francona. It’s a good way to add some creativity into gift giving… everyone always gets very excited to try and guess what is in the gift based on who it’s from.

Another of my favorite traditions is eating Lobster Bisque on Christmas day. We always buy the lobster fresh on Christmas eve and my Mom makes the bisque before hand. We have a lot of people over to our house for Christmas: Me, Cara, Jack, my mom, my dad, my uncle Bo, aunt Kristie, Anina, Mary, my grandfather and  of course the dogs. Everyone gets everyone else at least one present so opening gifts takes a long time. By the time we finish, everyone is starving and that huger makes the bisque even more amazing every year. Delicious!


There are a number of things I love about Christmas, but what I love most is the anticipation leading up to the big day- maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday…  You get to enjoy an amazing Thursday chock full of food, family and football.  When you wake up the next morning, you still have three days off of work/school and it’s universally acceptable to start listening to Christmas music and begin holiday preparations.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up always begins on the 1st of December.  It’s the day the Christmas books come out!  My mom has been collecting Christmas books since I was a baby.  I think she began with the intention of getting one new one each year, but we were never that consistent. Overall we probably have more than 30 books though- many inscribed with the year and circumstance in which they were given.  While the scratch-and-sniff candy canes and trees in Barnaby’s First Christmas only contain hints of their former glory and I cringe every year when Jim tells Della that he sold his watch in The Tale of Magi there’s nothing quite like looking back at some of your favorite stories each year to bring about that holiday feeling.  My two absolute favorites are The Littlest Angel and The Year of Perfect Christmas Tree.

Since graduating from college I’ve enjoyed shorter Christmas vacations at home, but even when I’ve only made it home a few days before the 25th my parents have always saved the decorating of the tree until I arrive.  I’m usually the “light lady” (we’re a fan of white lights…something Dave and I agree to disagree on) and it always takes a good number of hours to sort all the decorations and figure out where everything is going to go. Maddie and I each have ornaments that we and we alone are able to place on the tree.  We always try and get the favorites up front and put the “less desirables” near the back. I’m a fan of a fully decorated tree- just because no one sees the back doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be decorated…even if it’s with the more generic ornaments. The Amy Grant Christmas C.D.is usually playing throughout the decorating and after Amy finishes up we move to Gloria Estefan and other Christmas mixes. After the tree is complete we then get to set up the manger.  It’s always fun to unwrap the manger my Uncle John crafted years ago and set up the main players in their spots. The little black sheep is my favorite.  It always feels so comfy and cozy when the decorating is complete and I can read my Christmas books in front of the Christmas tree!

The final tradition I’ll go into a little depth about is our Christmas Eve routine.  Every year we get gussied up and head to church for Christmas Eve service.  The service is my absolute favorite of the year.  The service is primarily a song-fest.  In between songs pastor shares the Christmas story with the congregation and usually a special musical piece is done by the choir or a musical ensemble. The final part of the service is the best- all the lights are turned off and candles are passed to everyone in the congregation.  As the pews are dismissed one by one everyone sings Silent Night on repeat. It usually takes 5+ times through all three verses to get everyone out, but as it’s my favorite Christmas song I always enjoy the tradition. After the service we head up to Kersting Court to visit the snowman.  Every year someone drives down from the mountains with a truck-bed full of snow and crafts a snowman in the square.  As Southern Californians it’s always a novelty and a treat to pose with the snowman on Christmas Eve. The night ends with hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps at home and the opening of the first gift. Usually we watch a Christmas film or play a game and then go to bed dreaming of sugar plum fairies and nutcrackers.

Christmas itself brings a big hearty breakfast, the opening of stockings and then presents-we open one at a time, youngest to oldest.  After presents there isn’t much in the way of a scheduled out day. Usually an afternoon nap is had at some point. We always receive new games and movies from “Santa” that we enjoy in the afternoon and the many, many tins of cookies are eaten all day long.  My Grandma always sends us loads of her specialties and I particularly enjoy the wreaths and white chocolate dipped pretzels. The nice things about California is that you can spend part of almost any day of the year outside.  Last year I sent Dave pictures of me doing a crossword puzzle in the backyard in a t-shirt…ah the good old sunny California.  Dinner is typically something done up on the BBQ and then we spend the rest of the evening relaxing, game playing and enjoying each other’s company.  No huge traditions for the actual day other than lots of togetherness, but it’s still always one of my favorite days of the year!

Obviously we are a bit sad not to be back home for Christmas spending time with family, but are looking forward to starting some new traditions! We miss everyone back home… maybe you guys could tell us about your favorite traditions in the comments?