A Very Hoppy Christmas!
from “Our Man in Deutschland”
Hallo folks! Welcome to another post from Our Man in Deutschland, Hophaus’ official Berlin-based correspondent, sending all the latest brouhaha and festive brew-related goings on from the hoppy heart of Deutschland.
As Melbourne folk prepare to juice up the barbies and get primed for a raucous family spread this Christmas, the commencement of the silly season is a fine moment to reflect on our festive traditions and ponder where and how they came to be in the first place.
It’s an odd predicament isn’t it? Sweating beneath a blazing southern hemispheric sun, belting out carols about reindeer and snowmen, gorging on a European-style hot roast lunch. It’s a mighty long stretch for such sub zero traditions to carry on so far from their roots.
Not so in Deutschland, where everything is in its right place, home ground to so many of those incongruous Christmas customs.
Christmas in Deutschland
It’s a cosy scene here in Berlin: the mercury is plunging, the Christmas markets are out in force— gluhwein and jaeger tees all round—and a bonafide White Christmas, sleigh bells and all, is just a few brisk days away.
We all know the origins—a manger in a stable, some celestial lights, a trio of regal kings armed with myrrh and other sweet things. But what about before that? After all, Christmas falls on a time of year that has for centuries been synonymous with ritual and custom—the Romanic feast of ‘saturnalia’, for example, or the ‘rauchnachten’ of early Germanic tribes. It’s fair to say that Christmas these days is a blend of Christian, pre-Christian and secular themes, with each culture taking pride its own unique take on the celebratory moment.
It’s certainly the case in Germany, where the locals celebrate ‘Weihnachten’— the Holy Night—replete with Christmas fir trees (tannenbaum) and the observance of Advent. Forget about pre-lunch gift swapping on Christmas Day — Germans prefer to dish out their gifts on the night of the 24th when Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsmann) swoops down from the north to get the party started. Even this is a bone of contention—in some parts of the country children write letters in glittery envelopes instead to the ‘Christ Child’, or ‘Christkindl’, an angelic cherubim with blond locks, thought to be the genuine patron of Christmas cheer rather than our husky mate from the north pole.
The German Christmas Markets
Perhaps one of the most cherished of all German Christmas customs, the one that really helps you to forget how incredibly freezing it is out, is the brilliantly festive Christmas market. They’ve been popping all over Berlin and beyond lately, luminous with glowing lights, carnival rides, trinket stalls and open fires. The ‘Weihnachsmarkt’ is the place in town to chow down delicious sausages, cheeses and sizzling meats, while catching whiffs of roasting chestnuts, sipping hot mugs of rum-laden gluhwein and drifting merrily off into a state of unbridled festive exaltation.
By far the oldest of these markets is the ‘Striezelmarkt’ in Dresden, which celebrates its 580th ‘geburtstag’ in 2014. Its customary 14-meter Christmas pyramid will no doubt be displayed, as will its signature four tonne fruitcake driven around town by a horse and cart. In Berlin, we may not have the oldest, but we’ve certainly got the most—80 markets around town will be radiating
immense gluhwein-induced joy over the coming weeks.
Weihnachten is not all about the 24th and 25th either—December 6th is a standout date, St. Nicholas’ Day, when the white haired, bishop-esque ‘der Nikolaus’ skirts about town distributing chocolates and sweets to all the good kiddies. If you’ve been naughty you may want to sleep with one eye open on the night of the 5th—known as ‘Krampusnacht’, this is the grim eve when St.
Nick’s gruesome lackey, ‘Krampus’, a horrific beast with horns and a Gene Simmons length tongue, is said to creep around bedrooms in the night to punish and devour impish children. No cute little elves here I’m afraid. Makes that lump of coal look pretty enticing!
To make matters worse, in some parts of Bavaria men were encouraged on krampusnacht to dress up as the satanic beast in order to run about town terrorising the local children, dutifully paid for their important public service with liberal quantities of schnapps and beer!
Short of some freak climactic event, there probably won’t be much in ways of snow on the Southbank Promenade this Christmas Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the German spirit.
Delivering a full dose of authentic Weihnachten merriment, this year Hophaus will be hosting it’s first ever Christmas Day feast on the 25th – A sumptuous 3 course share-style Bavarian lunch with free schnapps on arrival and a special children’s menu to boot (rest assured, Krampus will not be attending).
Saddle up the kiddies and head on down to Hophaus for a gorgeous festive day by the riverside.
Bookings & pre-payment are essential, call or email Stephanie on 9682 5900 or email email@example.com to organise your booking.