Spargelzeit : White asparagus time in Germany!

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Spargelzeit ! ( White Asparagus season) ,Germany’s King of Vegetables arrives in Springtime!

Spring is totally  all over here in Germany!

Everyday, as I  look at how the pretty magnolias and enchanting pink cascades of cherry blossoms brings a pink spectacle in our surroundings, this makes me love even more Spring! Even the tulips that I planted in our garden blossoms into bright fuschia and red bulbs, beside the rows of yellow daffodils making it super ‘Gezellig‘, and undeniably a cozy, warm & festive season! And yes, time for Germans to indulge in white Spargels! When I say indulge, imagine a  consumption of whooping 125,000 tonnes per year!

It is true,that’s a whole LOT of Asparagus or locally known as Spargel!

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The “White Gold”in Germany, the White Asparagus

Just as the Apple marks the Fall season and culinary delights for baked pies, Spring time here in Germany signals the start of Spargelzeit, or the season of White Asparagus!

Have you heard anything like this before? Well for me, I only knew of Green Asparagus! I’ve read that there’s a purple variety as well but white, it never really occurred to me!  I have never seen or tasted  a white asparagus in my entire life. Not until I’ve been here in Germany. If you’re wondering what’s the difference, very simple actually;  the white variety grows entirely surrounded by earth. In turn, this protects the slender stalk from sunlight exposure and keeps it from turning green. This also affects the subtle flavor of it. Rich in nutrients and very low in calories, asparagus is a healthy and delicious food!

Remember my story about how Germans decorate their fountains with 10, 000 hand painted Easter eggs? Germans as well, prefer this seasonal white delicacy that grows only during Spargelzeit, from April to July. Now nobody can really underestimate the Germans special affection to Easter, Spring festivals and their culinary calendar in each season. Especially here in my Bavarian town,  Ostermarkt (Easter Market), Osterbrunnen (Easter fountain)  and the Frühlingsfest (Spring festival) are all big celebrations . But the special culinary specialty for Spring is no doubt the white, long, slender stems of white Spargel (asparagus) .

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My first sighting of the famous White German Asparagus ( Spargel) in our local Farmer’s market .

Germany’s  “king of vegetables” can be seen as early as middle of March but the official harvesting season of white spargel starts around April and ends until June 24. First time that I saw these white asparagus was in our local farmer’s market and since then, I saw these bunches more often as well in various supermarkets. Though prices might soar up high during the season, and many will sprout as cheap ones, they say that it’s still best to get the best grade asparagus since as for the Germans, it is always worth paying more for the ‘white gold’.

So how does the White Spargel taste?

White asparagus is much softer in texture and stringier than the green asparagus.It has more subtle and delicate flavour. It is traditionally served with melted butter and potatoes (Spargel mit Butter), with ham (Spargel mit Schinken) or with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit holländischer Sauce).

I’ve found out more interesting facts about the White Spargel :

  1. It takes 3 (Three) long years for an asparagus plant to produce its first tip.The soil is piled up in knee-high banks making its unique appearance.
  2. The states of Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony take special pride in being prime asparagus growing regions in Germany.
  3. Just like beer festival, there is also a “Spargelfest” ( Spargel festival)  held where culinary experts showcase their fresh spargel dishes,peeling contest and even celebrating with the Asparagus Queen!
  4. There is an Asparagus Museum in Herten, North Rhein Westphalia, in Germany.The Vestisches Spargelmuseum is dedicated to this spring delight, owned by Ludger Südfeld.  The exhibit display trace the entire cultivation process of this vegetable.
  5. According to the records from 2012 released by Federal Ministry of Agriculture recently, asparagus uses a fifth of the entire open land area for vegetables in Germany, making it the vegetable with the largest cultivation area in the country.
  6. The city of Schwetzingen claims to be the Asparagus capital of the World!
  7. During Spargelzeit, the average German enjoys the delicate flavor of this tender spring vegetable at least once a day. This, in turn, adds up to a national total of over 70,000 tons per year!

 

Yes, would you believe that in this country known for its ordnungs, there is also Asparagus quality !

Asparagus Quality

Germany has divided asparagus into strict quality classes, comparable to USDA Grade A, Choice, etc. The classes of “Spargel” are:

Extra – Minimum diameter of 12 mm (15/32 inch), no hollow cores, perfectly straight and all white. Most expensive.

Handelsklasse I (HK I) – Minimum diameter of 10 mm (3/8 inch), light bending, light coloration (violet). Good value.

Handelsklasse II (HK II) – Minimum diameter of 8 mm (5/16 inch), curved stalks allowed, slightly opened flower heads, more color than HK I and sometimes woody. Good for soup stock and students.

 

Any thoughts on this post? Have you ever tried eating white Asparagus?Also, do you think eating Asparagus makes your urine smell?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

 

 

 

 

Two Duvets are better than One : Sleeping the German way

 

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Culture Shock :  Two beds, Two Duvets , no top covers.

While on our holiday in Rhineland -Palatinate and Trier last 2015, I was totally shocked to see how our beds were made. Two single mattresses in one bed frame, with two duvets on top, with two big square pillows pinched in the middle . No covers. Same as the one I observe in Austria.The Dutch husband even told me that the beds can even be folded on a height that you like. All I can say was , Why oh why?

This is not-so-Asian, no, not even middle-eastern.Scandinavian style, definitely and yes, the absolute German way of sleeping.

I ponder on this matter and thought how it originated but I couldn’t find any material. Maybe for cleanliness purposes since I notice that Germans love to hang their duvets from their window to ‘air’, a typical scene I have  also seen in Kuwait. My neighbor does this even during winter.But dirty air or wind can even make it dirtier, don’t you think?

Maybe for more comfort, and less ‘tug-of-war‘  scenarios? Could this even led why Germany has a low birth -rate? or a presumably relationship-killer? Some say it’s funny seeing you sleeping like cocooned caterpillars next to each other.

And how does the fun happens?

Or what if your partner is a night-farter? It can happen and a total mood buster.Or what if  you’re the type to stick out a foot while sleeping?

Whatever the reasons behind it, there must be something to it that clicks.To think that not only Germany have this thing, but also other countries like  Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland — they all love  having two duvets on one bed.

English and American people tend to tuck their duvets under the mattress so that you can slip in from the top. Germans would hardly acquire a taste for this nighttime covering. Germans, as I have learned and confirmed, are not accustomed to share a duvet with their Ehepartner (spouse) or Lebensgefährte (partner in life). Germans need a duvet to be twisted and turned. This can only be guaranteed when each person has got his or her own duvet for the night. Germans really have a way to make everything in life easy–with their all sorts of inventions and interventions!

When we move here in Germany, we got a new bed  and of course, my husband love this idea  so much so we opted to get 2 beds to fit in one bed frame. The most common standard size for German mattresses is 90 by 200 cm for singles and 180 by 200 cm for couples.

The English language has a variety of names to denote particular bed sizes: Cot, Single, Small Double or Three Quarter, Double, Queen, King, Super King, etc., which I find similar to the middle east. I think all the beds there is fit for a king! The German language, however, is more pragmatic in this way. They don’t have any nice-sounding words for the various bed sizes. Here, shopping for beds comes easy.For example, by using either measurements or conventional adjectives such as Klein (small) and groß (large).

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Duvets for  different season . One for Winter and one for Summer

The ordinary German Matratze (mattress) measures 90 cm (3ft) breadthways and 200 cm (6ft 6″) lengthways. This ordinary mattress is used for a single bed frame – which makes it a Einzelbett (Single). When two of these mattresses are put together they make a Doppelbett (Double) or Ehebett (marriage bed).

Some singles who don’t have to share their bed with another person opt for a bed size, which is larger than the ordinary 90 cm (3ft) by 200 cm (6ft 6″) mattress. Germans refer to this as a großes Einzelbett (large single bed). It’s measures: 140 cm (4ft 6″) by 200 cm (6ft 6″). German couples who think the common lying surface of 180 cm (5ft 9″) by 200 cm (6ft 6″) – two single mattresses put together – is still too small for a restful sleep can also opt for a mattress that measures 200 cm by 200 cm (6ft 6″) or two mattresses that measure 100 cm (3ft 3″) by 200 cm – which makes it ein großes Doppelbett (a large Double).

Does this tickle your interest? Here I find more interesting facts about sleeping and the way German prefer how their beds being done.

The Decke

Once you have your foam mattress and latenrost all set up, next come the bedlinens. Fitted sheets are easy enough. They are readily available in most shops .They are called Spannbetttüche and available is any color and several various fabrics. You match your bed size to the package and your bed is covered. So if you have 2 separate mattress, you get two pieces as well. I’m telling you, I sweat when I am making our bed with all these multiple linens.

Latenrost

There are no box springs here in Germany. The non-mattress spring support is called a Lattenrost. This is a set of bent wooden slats that are bouncy all held in a frame that goes under the mattress. The lattenrost come in different “bouncy-ness”s as well. Some are even articulated to allow sitting up in bed.

Pillows and sizes

In Germany, they use huge square pillows instead of small rectangular ones, it’s as simple as that but not really if you have your usual pillows. You can’t find pillow case that can fit to it. So if you are moving to Germany, you better bring loads of spare ones or you can always buy online.

I told you, here in Germany, it’s all about function, it’s not the new fashion fad in sleeping but there are reasons why you need to resolve into this for better sleeping. It’s good for your back as well. Take a look at Ikea tips for good sleeping options  to help you on your next bed shopping!

Also, I found some great reading why Two Duvets in one bed is really the answer for a better sleep. Check these out;

Scandinavian Style : Two Duvets on one Bed 

Our hearts beats as one when we sleep in two Duvets

 

Any thoughts? Would you love or not this style for sleeping?

What’s your own sleeping preferences?

 

 

German sausages : Love it or Hate it

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Germany- the country who adores pig and sausages

I’m telling you, Germans have a serious love affair with their sausages. If the Netherlands have a museum for cheese, Germans have a museum dedicated to Currywurst!

Did you know that Germany have almost 1,200 types of wurst? Unbelievable.

It so happened that Germany is the biggest pork producer in Europe. Internationally, Germany is third behind China and the USA. They love pork so much that If you’re a Muslim here, you might feel’ intimidated ‘ by the amount of pork products in the grocery shop. The sausage section are bigger than the fruit section! I find it funny  for myself that after living in Kuwait for almost 8 years without pork, now I am overwhelmed with the amount of pork products, especially sausages.

I am now on my 7th month mark living here in Bavaria and Oh men, for the love of food, I think I have eaten sausages more than I have ever eaten in my whole life!!

Looking back at my first days here, everything around me now seems  familiar, especially when it comes to Kaffee und Kuchen , Biergartens and of course, the infamous  german sausages, especially Bavarian sausages. For a very long time, I only know hotdogs– the tender-juicy  red bullies I love to eat with eggs and fried rice during breakfast. I used to think that hotdogs are same with wurst but I am mistaken. They are two different thing!  Back home we have our local ‘Longganisa’ — it’s the Philippine version of  sausages, more like the  Spanish sausage (embutido) similar to a chorizo and also closely associated with the Portuguese linguiça

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Currywurst swimming in curry sauce

Then I came to know frankfurter, and chicken sausages. While living in Kuwait where there is no Pork, I indulge in delicious Arabic foods that I’ve learned to love, like  Shawerma , kebabs and chicken shish tawouk. On lazy days, I opt for chicken mini- sausages too. They are always quick to prepare and light. Little did I know that coming to Germany would introduce me to another sausage species–the German sausages or commonly known here as Wurts.

Here are some of the sausages that I came to know while living here in Bavaria. Here, the food culture is not something extravagant or complicated recipes, but what I love about Germans is how they celebrate everything with sausage, pretzel and beer. From their local Biergartens  to Volksfest, to the world-renowned Oktoberfest up to their beautiful Christkindlmarkts also known as  German Christmas Markets, these sausages bond people of all ages,always creating a cozy atmosphere, rain or shine.

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My favorite sausage – the Nüremberger. Light, small and tasty. 

Germans certainly adore pig.Unsurprisingly the pig is a good luck symbol in Germany. Also it is very cold here and they have long winters, so sausage was an excellent way to preserve the pig and use up all the trimmings ….”all but the tail and the oink” as some have put it.

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Sausages and more sausages.

Here are some of the sausages which I have found interesting and the ones I can recommend. There are so much more but I never had the chance to try them so I don’t have an idea how they taste.

Bratwurst -It is a favorite in Germany, and each region has its own version. There are over 50 kinds of bratwurst, and they all vary in size, texture and seasoning – so no wonder it’s confusing. Although Germans now associate “Brat” with “braten,” which means to fry, broil or grill, the name originally derives from Old High German: “Brät” meant finely chopped meat.

Nürnberger (Nuremberger)-Among the different varieties of Bratwurst, you can recognize the one produced in Nuremberg by its size. It’s surprisingly small, not much bigger than a pinkie finger. Historical documents already mentioned this wurst back in 1313. These sausages are traditionally grilled over flames, served six at a time, and accompanied by sauerkraut and potatoes with horseradish or mustard on the side. This is my favorite so far, also my daughter love to munch on this one.

Currywurst-A currywurst is simply a steamed bratwurst seasoned with ketchup and covered with curry powder.  This has been the very first sausage that I have tasted when I came here. I was shocked to see its size and I was open-mouthed looking at my husband how on earth am I going to devour it.

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Lunch, Dinner or just a snack- The currywurst and some fries + Beer is the German form of ‘Gezelligheid’.

In a country specialized in high-tech cars, it sounds a bit exaggerated to call this fast-food snack an “invention,” but Herta Heuwer, the Berlin cook who developed the special sauce, actually patented it in 1959. It’s since become a street food classic. The Currywurst has become an essential Berlin experience, served sliced with ketchup. Its history is celebrated at the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, not far from Checkpoint Charlie.

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The king of Bavarian breakfast- the weisswurst.

Weisswurst-This veal Bavarian sausage translates as “white sausage” for its color. It has no preservatives, nor is it smoked, which is why it’s meant to be eaten fresh the day it was made. A German saying recommends the Weisswurst should never get to hear the church bells ring at noon. To eat it, some suck out the meat from the skin, or, more discreetly, cut it in half and roll out the filling with a fork. Here in Bavaria, Weisswurst is often a morning treat. No true Bavarian dream of eating weisswurst after midday.

Blutwurst-The German Blutwurst (blood sausage) is usually made with pork blood and bacon. As it is already cooked, it does not need to be eaten hot – but some people do. Some regions include it in dishes with colorful names: the Rhineland’s “Himmel und Erde” (Sky and Earth) combines it with mashed potatoes and apple sauce. “Tote Oma” (Dead Grandma) is Berlin’s way of serving it with liverwurst and potatoes. Germans loved to eat sausages with pretzel, warm rolls and potato fries.

Salami-Salami is typically Italian, but it is just as popular in sausage-loving Germany – and it’s much more than just a pizza topping. If Italians usually stick to coffee and sweet bread rolls for breakfast, Germans will gladly serve slices of salami first thing in the morning, too. They’ll enjoy it all day, as salami shows up for the simple evening meal called “Abendbrot“. In local bakeries here, there are lots of sandwiches with salami next to the usual dense rolls and dark breads which Germans also love to eat.

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If the sausage fits…!

I am already looking forward for Spring and  for the BBQ season  to start. When its sunny and the days are longer, expect that it’s typically  German thing when the air suddenly smells like BBQ. Yes, pork, sausages and beer are all unfriendly to the belly, but Germans have a lifestyle to balance it all off with a sweat – they just cycle the cholesterol away!

 

Have you ever tried eating sausage? How was your experience?

Anticipating in Silence

“Some Days are made of Silent Anticipation “

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A lighted candle always brings anticipation and I love how it creates a “Silent moment”in any child.

Waiting for Christmas has always been exciting for both young and old ones, but here in Bavaria, it’s as big as Oktoberfest I must say. Though people look forward more to a warm mug of Glühwein instead of beer and Zimtstern  (Cinnamon Star cookies) than Pretzels. I, myself is looking forward to see all these new things in my eyes.There’s something about experiencing things for the first time–everything seems special. I can still remember my daughter’s excitement when she saw her boot was filled with goodies during St. Nicholas Day ( Nikolaustag) . All around the city and on each home, everywhere is decorated and the atmosphere of Christmas is so heavy here in Bavaria. I know that in other regions, the traditions vary and things are celebrated differently, but with same looking forward for Christmas Day.

Children have this big anticipation in their eyes, a longing for something exciting! There’s the glow in their eyes when they know that they are counting the days for the big day comes starting with the Adventkalendars. It is practically a calendar with treats or chocolates in every date with small doors.On the 1st of December children get to open the first little door, behind which they find a chocolate or some other little treat. On the 2nd of December they get to open the 2nd door, and so on and so forth up to 24 December. Now, which kid will complain? Even the adults loved this one. Enjoying every piece of chocolate in silence.

Christmas in Germany is one of the happiest and most celebrated holidays of all times here,but Christmas here comes in a long, sweet, waiting game. As early as November, the city center was transformed into a winter wonderland and place for the Christkindlmarkt. Another custom that I have observed here is their Adventkranz  or the Advent wreath. This is a truly one German cozy tradition,though the concept of Advent wreath originated from German Lutherans in the 16th century, but spread out to other denominations. German families celebrates the 4-Sundays of Advent before Christmas  with an Advent wreath  shaped into a round, flat wound of fir pine It is adorned with cinnamon sticks,orange peels and with 4 red candles.

From Hamburg, the Advent wreath started its triumphal procession out to the Christian world: In 1925 an Advent wreath with four candles was set up in a catholic church in Cologne for the first time. Since 1930 as well in Munich.

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Advent, Advent, a Little Candle is burning.

On every Sunday during Advent another candle is lit until in the end all four are burning. “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt,” goes one children’s rhyme. “Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier, dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.” “Advent, Advent, a little candle’s burning. First one, then two, then three, then four. Then the Christ Child’s at the door.”

Children watching the candle in silence, but with eager anticipation. Looking admiringly on the packed gifts under the Christmas Tree and watching the lights flood the living room while listening to Christmas carols. One of the things that I love doing here nowadays is watching the locals decorate their houses in a very unique way, totally different from the culture that I grew up with.When I am out,I love watching people in silence as they all go around with their busy hustle and bustle during Christmas season. Busy shopping, gift wrapping, and some are just celebrating life everyday in the coziness of the German Christmas markets. With a warm mug of Glühwein and with tasty treats, or a bucket of roasted almonds or chestnuts. Some towns are famed for their Christmas markets, for example Dresden’s Striezelmarkt (named after a type of cake – now known as Stollen – traditionally sold there) and Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt (“Christ Child Market”).

Anticipation doesn’t need to be loud or grand, because  some days in Christmas season are made with silent anticipation.

 

In response to this week’s Photo Challenge :Anticipation

When St. Nicholas beats Santa Claus

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St. Nicholas  dropped some presents  and stuffed into the Little one’s  boots!

I grew up adoring Santa Claus. Almost every Christmas, someone would dressed up as Santa Claus to make the occasion even more festive. The party gets more alive and kids shrieked with glee once they see him. From decorations ,cards, Christmas socks, to figurines set up  in shops, there is this heavily- bearded old man dressed in red suit  with a hat and black boots, carrying a sack full of gifts.  It has even become a tradition for kids to sit in the lap of Santa Claus and take  photos. The sight of him elevates our excitement for the great gifts that He brings. As a kid, I am also enamored to the old tale that if you have been good all through out the year, you will receive presents from Santa Claus. Santa  flies through the air on a winter night of Christmas eve  with his sleigh full of gifts pulled by  reindeer, especially  led by  Rudolf, the one with a red nose. Santa Claus climbs up to the chimney and then leave the gifts under the Christmas tree.

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My husband looks so happy when He received a gift from Sinterklaas

On the other side,my Dutch husband  grew up adoring Sinterklaas or the De Goede Sint (The Good Saint) which is the big thing for kids in the Netherlands . Sinterklaas is widely celebrated on Dec. 5th and most anticipated by Dutch  kids during December more than Christmas day itself. Sinterklaas  wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop’s alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre and ruby ring, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top. He traditionally rides a white horse. In the Netherlands, the horse is called Amerigo. Sinterklaas with his Zwarte piets roam around the neighborhood and give gifts to children.This festivity is full of Kruidnoten, Gevuldekoeken,chocolate letters, spekulaas cookies and so many different treats for the little ones. It’s really the biggest event for Dutch kids.

There are so many Santa Claus figures all over the world but I believe that they all portray the same role as the mythical Santa Claus and its connection to Christmas.But here in Germany, Santa Claus is nowhere to be found because St. Nicholas beats him. In this festive season,all German kids look forward for St. Nicholas Day or Nikolaustag on December 6, more than Christmas Day on December 25th.

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Shoes has been stuffed by St. Nicholas for Nikolaustag in Germany!

But who is the real St. Nicholas?

Across the German-speaking region of Europe there are many kinds of Santa Clauses with many different names. Despite their many names, they are all basically the same mythic character. But few of them have anything to do with the real Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolaus or der Heilige Nikolaus), who was probably born around A.D. 245 in the port city of Patara in what we now call Turkey.He is credited with several miracles and his feast day is December 6, which is the main reason he is connected with Christmas. In Austria, parts of Germany, and Switzerland, der Heilige Nikolaus (or Pelznickel) brings his gifts for children on Nikolaustag, Dec. 6, not Dec. 25.

So what happens during Nikolaustag in Germany?

I noticed that German kids are very very  spoiled during Christmas season here in Germany. As early as October, the shops are already filled with Adventkalendar which is literally  a calendar with chocolates , toys and sweets! German kids count the days before St. Nicholas ‘s arrival through the Adventkalendar which also coincide with the 4 weeks of Advent season before Christmas day. Around November, the shops are already adorned with Christmas decorations, there’s the wide array of different Adventkranz, and the Weihnachtsmann or  (Father Christmas )  strolls inside the shops with a sack  giving out chocolate balls and sweets for kids. He also visit the Christkindlmarkt  during Frohe festtages where there again, giving away candy bracelets, toys and chocolate balls to eager kids. One happy day for kids, and for parents too!

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St. Nicholas with the Christkind in the Christkindlmarkt

On the night of December 5th , in small communities in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a man dressed as der Heilige Nikolaus (St. Nicholas)  who resembles a bishop and carries a staff) goes from house to house to bring small gifts to the children. Accompanying him are several ragged looking, devil-like Krampusse, who mildly scare the children. Although Krampus/Knecht Ruprecht carries eine Rute (a switch), He only teases the children with it, while St. Nicholas hands out small gifts to the children. In some regions, there are other names for both Nikolaus and Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht in northern Germany).  The Krampuslauf custom found in Austria and Bavaria also happens around December 5 or 6, but it also can take place at various times during November or December, depending on the community. While Santa Claus is more gay and cheerful ,take note that St. Nicholas doesn’t  even say Ho ho ho !

Now that we live in Bavaria, my daughter had her first taste of Nikolaustag. She shrieked with delight when she saw  her yellow boots is filled with goodies and gifts . Her first taste of Nikolaustag came as a bright and sweet surprise!  This experience is new to us but then I am so glad that my daughter can have things such as this. This is one of the local traditions that we are looking forward to celebrate through the coming years.

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

What Christmas traditions do you do during this holiday season?

 

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