This is one of my favorite times of year, so when I knew we'd be in Germany for it this year, I was a little sad. Germany does Christmastime well, so there's no shortage of things to do or see to get in the holiday spirit, but I knew I'd be missing our decorations and our little traditions.
I love traditions. Nobody reading this is surprised by that declaration, but I do. So here are traditions we have that we're missing, and how we're altering those for our time in Germany.
I miss our collection of Christmas books. We collect one each year and many of them are childhood favorites, and gathered from thrift stores. We pack them away each year and they're fun to take out and enjoy over the month of December. I did find a kids Christmas nativity book here in German so that I can practice my limited language skills, so maybe I'll translate it and write the translations in the book!
Christmas movies. I know it's so easy to stream movies, but I really like the collection we've built up of classic Christmas movies and some more silly recent ones (like Elf and The Santa Clause). In 2012, we made a big pot of soup and turned just the Christmas tree lights on and watched Christmas movies all day. It was so great that we've done it every year. Thankfully, Netflix and Amazon Video have an assortment of movies we can stream, although we're sad because Home Alone, a favorite of ours, was on German Netflix until the beginning of November and then disappeared without a word. Anyway, we're thinking we'll take a day right around Christmas and make some Christmas snacks and watch these movies all day.
Ornaments. We have so many, and as the years pass, I think we are going to approach the territory of too many. Favorites include our wedding toppers, which were a bride and groom alligator that I hot-glued ribbons to and hung on the tree and our now huge collection of ornaments from places we've been (sometimes if we can't find an actual ornament we like, we buy something that's cute that we can attach to ribbon and hang on the tree, like a pencil sharpener or a keychain). We've added to that collection since we've been here, faithfully finding something for our tree at home from far away, and since we've been so many places, we may need to get a second tree next year just for our Europe ornaments!
Advent calendar. Most years, we buy an advent calendar from World Market or Trader Joes for very cheap, and they have gross chocolate (in other words, I don't eat it and Carson does). This year, we are in the land of every advent calendar imaginable. And yet, when we went to the grocery store and remembered that oh yeah, we wanted an advent calendar, they didn't have one. I found a Christmas chocolate variety pack with 25 chocolates that came with a Christmas tree shaped stand you could make. I wrote numbers on each one with a sharpie and now we have another decoration plus advent calendar. Win-win, because the chocolate is pretty good (still too sweet).
Advent readings. Two years ago, I added this advent devotional book to our collection, and we've read it every day during the month of December and really enjoyed it. This year, of course I didn't remember to hunt down the book while we were packing to move, so I downloaded this one to my Kindle app because I thought it would be similarly good and reflective. We've appreciated it so far.
Christmas music. I really miss Pandora here, but it just doesn't work in Germany. While a bummer, I've discovered that Amazon Music is pretty good. If you have a Prime account, it allows you to stream without commercials, which is a perk over Pandora, and it allows you to choose stations or to create your own playlists, sort of like Spotify. So it's the best of both worlds, I guess. Something I regret not bringing to Germany is the Bluetooth speaker I got for Christmas last year. Our apartment is small enough that it doesn't really matter, but it would be nice to really turn up the Christmas tunes. Some of our favorite Christmas albums are Pentatonix's PTXmas and That's Christmas to Me - both Carson's favorites, Michael Buble Christmas (don't have any of his albums but enjoy them), Hillsong's We Have a Savior, and Sovereign Grace Music's Prepare Him Room. But I also enjoy the Christmas stations for a variety of classic Christmas songs.
Christmas stars. We have a star for the top of our tree at home, but over here, we've seen so many of these paper star lanterns. They often sell a light kit to put inside to make them all glowy and beautiful, but we opted not to get one, since we wouldn't be able to use it when we got back to the states. This will be an easy thing to carry home, since it folds up into a flat triangle. We see them in windows all over town and several booths at the Christmas markets specialize in these fun stars. We stuck a tiny tack in the ceiling and used white thread (I brought needles and thread with me, which was surely a waste of space since those are definitely available here and probably cheap) and it looks invisible which was the point. Might just leave this star up after Christmas to fill that blank white corner!
Christmas tree. This was by far the least amount of time we've spent on a tree. We have a fake tree at home and even though we prefer real ones, it's nice to not water a tree and to spend very little time setting it up! Our tiny tree here was one of two at the grocery store so we chose the ones that leaned the least (although now that it's here it's actually leaning quite a bit) and threw a strand of tiny battery operated lights shaped like Christmas trees and some cheap ball ornaments on it.