Archive | December, 2013

Where In The World Is Agnes Irvine Scott?: Episode 2

27 Dec
Agnes's Trip from Brussels to Cologne to Langenfeld

Agnes’s Trip from Brussels to Cologne to Langenfeld

And we’re off! Flat Agnes has officially crossed the border into her second country on this grand adventure that is Christmas Break! Second stop: Cologne, Germany! She got the chance to visit the shops, take a bus tour around the city, and enjoy some of their fine eating and drinking establishments. After that, we split up and Agnes came with me to Langenfeld, Germany to spend Christmas with the Grothe family! Here are some pictures of her travels…

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

26 Dec

Fröhliche Weihnachten (Merry Christmas in German) to all of the people who read my blog, so mostly friends and family. I first want to say how much I love and appreciate each and every one of you, and I cannot wait to see you when I get back to wherever you are living!

That being said, I was fortunate to experience a new kind of Christmas this year in my explorations of Germany. I was adopted by my German family (The Grothe Family) for the season and could not have been more thrilled! They really took me under their wings and helped me get the most out of the season. This post is dedicated to them and will show how I really got the chance to experience a traditional German Christmas.

Advent Calendar– Der Adventskalender

My Milka Advent Calendar

My Milka Advent Calendar

The advent wreath and calendar were actually invented by a German pastor, Johann Hinirch Wichern, in 1833 when he was working in an orphanage in Hamburg and the children kept asking when Christmas was going to arrive. He made the wreath as a way for the children to count down the days. I totally didn’t know that! I had always helped my Grandma Pipher light her advent wreaths, but I didn’t know where it came from. Now I do! Lucky for me, this was the first introduction I got to German Christmas traditions. When I visited my German family earlier this year, they sent me home with a Milka Chocolate advent calendar. Starting December 1 I got a piece of Milka chocolate every day for 25 days! It was a delicious countdown! 🙂

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

German Christmas Markets (Weihnachstmärkte)

I have a new love in life, and its name is “Christmas Market”. I had SO much fun going through the Koln (Cologne) Christmas markets with my friend Alex for a few days before I ended in Langenfeld. Though the city of Desden has the oldest Christmas market in Germany (dating back from 1434), Koln is one of the most popular ones. It had 9 markets spread out across the city, and there was a little train that you could pay to take that would go between all 9 of them (we decided to walk instead). They have everything ranging from food, drink, decorations, souvenirs, and presents. It was perfect!

German Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

1387881714226When coming to Christmastime, every person who has ever been to Germany says that you have to try Gluhwein. No matter what Christmas market you go to, you will see lots of these stands all around. For me, I finally got to try it our last day in Koln at the restaurant LyLy (which we went to twice because it was so good and the people were great!). Though Alex didn’t like it (she doesn’t drink alcohol, but I made her try it anyway), I thought it was delicious!

 The Christmas Tree (Der Tannenbaum) 

The first Christmas tree on record was in Freiburg, Germany in 1419. It was set up by the town bakers who put fruits, nuts, and baked goods on it as decoration that the children of the town could remove on New Years Day. Traditionally the tree is put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, but some German families put theirs up during Advent. Christmas trees have always been a favorite of mine, and up until I left for college we would always get a real, 8′ tree to put in our house. This year, I got to have a real tree again! Though the Grothe family does not put real candles on their tree like some German families do (Thank goodness in my opinion! Can you say fire hazard?!), it was still beautifully decorated!

Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend or Heiligabend)

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Presents from Christkind

In most European countries, including Germany, they celebrate St. Nicholas Day on 6 December. This day is based on the Catholic St. Nicholas who lived in the 4th century in present-day Turkey. He is known as the protector of children. Traditionally, this was the day that children received their gifts. However, the Middle Ages brought the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church, led by Martin Luther (a German). It was through the Reformation that the glorification of saints was replaced with the focus on Jesus himself. Therefore, Luther changed the traditional date of receiving present from St. Nicholas Day to closer to Christmas Day itself. He also replaced the image of gifts coming from St. Nicholas to gifts coming from Christkind (also seen spelled Christkindl), which translates to “Christ child”. Some say that Christkind is an interpretation of Jesus as an infant, but Melissa informed me that their version of Christkind is an angel. Rather than coming during the night like the American Santa Claus, Christkind comes while the children are away and sneaks the presents under the tree. After our Christmas Eve dinner, us children (Melissa, Norman, Migel, and I) were sent to our rooms and were not allowed to leave until we heard the bell announcing that Christkind had left. We returned to the living room to find the tree with presents under it!

Christmas Days (der erste und zweite Weihnachtstag)

Table set for Christmas dinner

Table set for Christmas dinner

In Germany there are two legal days of Christmas, December 25 and 26. They are known as the First and Second Days of Christmas. This is the time for the extended family to get together and visit. This is exactly what we did. On the 25th Melissa, her boyfriend Jonas, and I went to Jonas’s family’s house where we had dinner with his extended family on his mother’s side. There we had some traditional German Christmas food, including red cabbage and potato dumplings. Then we came back to Melissa’s house where we had dinner with Melissa’s father’s extended family. After dinner we went to Jonas’s fathers house for drinks with his father, step-mother, and sister. On the 26th we had Melissa’s mother’s parents over for cake and coffee.

All in all, I had a fantastic Christmas time with the Grothe family! I learned a lot about their language and customs and laughed the whole time! This is a Christmas I will never forget!

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Grothe Family + Adopted Children (from the back, left: Klaus, Migel, Sabine, Norman, Me, Melissa)

 

Where In The World Is Agnes Irvine Scott?: Episode 1

23 Dec

In honor of its 125 Anniversary, Agnes Scott College has started a “Flat Agnes” campaign. What this campaign has done is sent little cut-outs of our school’s namesake, Agnes Irvine Scott, so that students and alums can take pictures with her around the world. That being said, I will not be taking Flat Agnes around with me in my study abroad travels.

Agnes’s first introduction was to–surprise–Brussels! However, we were lucky to be joined on this trip by the wonderful Agnes student Alex McLellen, who is currently studying abroad in Northern Ireland. Below are the pictures of our trip, as well as the map of Agnes’s first step abroad!

Agnes's First Stop: Brussels, Belgium

Agnes’s First Stop: Brussels, Belgium

 

 

 

 

Video

Noël à Bruxelles et les Plaisirs d’Hiver

10 Dec

To start of the Christmas season in style, I spend the first weekend of December exploring the Plaisirs d’Hiver, or Winter Wonders, in central Brussels. This celebration of the holiday season in the history center of the city consists of a Christmas Market (2km of shops), attractions (including an ice skating rink and Ferris Wheel), and light show at Grand Place.

Below, you can see a video of part of the 15-minute light show at Grand Place. This year’s show is entitled “Magical History City” and uses light and music to depict the historic events that have taken place in Grand Place. This includes the medieval and baroque eras, 1695 bombing, reconstruction under the aegis of Charles Buls, and the entry into the twenty-first century.

For more information on this show, check out http://visitbrussels.be/bitc/BE_en/minisite_winterwonders/content/21949/grand-place.do