The holiday season is in full swing, albeit in stark contrast to what we have grown accustomed to; there are many deviations from previous traditions and I find myself unsure of what other changes lay ahead and how to best prepare us for shifting our expectations. The Seasons are still here, but the transitions between them aren’t the same. In MN the seasonal changes matched our life rhythm and if for some reason we were forgetful, the local Target store was there to help remind us of what was coming. We felt the pressure of being on top of things there because if we waited too long we couldn’t find what we were looking for (children’s snow boots when snow had been forecast anyone?). From this years’ experience, next year we’ll know more and be better prepared.
I thought I would do a series on our first holiday season in Berlin. We’ll start with Thanksgiving and share a few others between now and the New Year. Keep in mind that we still feel new here, so we don’t have the German traditions down yet but I hope we’ll get there!
Thanksgiving. It is odd to celebrate an American holiday in another country, especially one that has traditionally involved family. I didn’t realize how much Thanksgiving meant to my family until the day I assumed we wouldn’t celebrate it this year. Why? Many reasons came to my mind: who do we invite, our table can only seat eight at best and we are already five, all five of us have school all day long…..
Normally I plan this day a good week or two in advance, even though I have never hosted the meal in our home. I am a planner at heart and I always made a special breakfast to eat while watching the parade on TV. I usually called my parents during the parade and the kids told them which floats were on and chatted for a while. Then I would whip up whatever we were bringing to the family gathering.
Some differences about planning for Thanksgiving here: the bird; Turkeys are not commonly found in the grocery store or at the butcher, though we happened to find a couple stores that sold some frozen. We bought one (exactly 6 kg) and carried it home on the train, in our backpack (because that is just how you do it here). I also heard that cranberries were uncommon here and difficult to find. If this is the case then we are blessed because we found both the berries and the bird at the store across from our school. I am glad because I need the berries for my traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin bread.
Denny and I had school off that Wednesday so we decided to hit the grocery store with our list in hand. I would NEVER do this at home, because who goes shopping for Thanksgiving groceries the day before Thanksgiving? We know the stores are packed with people and lacking on the necessary items that day (so I usually have it done by the Monday before). Not so in Berlin! Just another normal day, plenty of the items we needed. The trick was carrying it all home from the grocery store, good thing Denny’s built like a pack-mule.
Sadly, that night one of the kids caught a tummy virus that had been making the rounds through school so I had to stay home with them on Thursday and Denny on Friday. We had to make a visit to the local pediatrician here (because it’s required by school here), a visit from the virus meant that we decided to do the rest of Thanksgiving alone so we wouldn’t spread to others outside our home.
I cooked and baked all day while 3/5 of us were at school. I made cranberry sauce, a turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie, and croissants. I was able to find every ingredient we needed here which is pretty great since we were advised to move the items needed (dry goods) for our first Thanksgiving because that is a holiday you want to go as planned. We even found a drink like Cold Duck (a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage) that our kids drink at typical holiday dinners back home.
After school we streamed the Thanksgiving Day parade. It was the first time in years that I’ve watched it without a coffee in hand (since it was late afternoon and nearly dark already). The kids enjoyed it much more this year than ever before, probably because it reminded them of home. I didn’t like that I was finishing dinner while it was on, because that meant I didn’t get to watch much, but I listened in and it sounded like Thanksgiving morning. The food was good and we enjoyed a dinner that tasted like home. The winning food of the night was the made-from-scratch pumpkin pie, made from baking our Halloween Pumpkins.
We look forward to planning next year’s Thanksgiving and hopefully inviting friends who have never experienced this American holiday, because as we learned this year, Thanksgiving isn’t meant to be spent alone. Up next, Nikolaustag.