Christmas in Germany...

(21 Posts)
4Fags Tue 12-Nov-13 20:09:32

Hello all,
I am visiting some German friends (with young children) this xmas, and I want to bring them traditional british stuff. I'm just not sure anymore what counts as a UK christmas, as opposed to a german one.
I was going to bring a massive tin of scottish shortbread plus a big box of christmas crackers for the parents, and then make the kids stockings. English sweets inside are easy - english writing - but I was wondering about tree ornaments. Are there any kinds that are particularly british.
And what about british christmas cake or pudding? are they british - or do people eat that in germany as well?
And mince pies?
Any ideas gratefully received!
Thanks

OP’s posts: |
DrSeuss Tue 12-Nov-13 20:15:54

Crackers aren't allowed on planes! I know because I tried it!
Fruit cake and Christmas pud are unknown in Germany. Also mince pies. Sad to say, a lot of the ornaments sold here are German as they are far nicer.
Brandy butter is also unknown there. Haribos are German so best avoided. I'd take shortbread, good quality tea and salt and vinegar crisps which my German friends love.
Viel Spass dabei!

4Fags Tue 12-Nov-13 20:30:34

Thanks so much.
Even in hand luggage? BA will let them in the hold (two packs, commercially produced) but Lufthansa won't. Sadly, I'm not going with BA...

OP’s posts: |
DrSeuss Tue 12-Nov-13 20:36:25

Air Berlin were a flat no, not in the cabin or hold.

AphraBane Tue 12-Nov-13 20:36:37

I think there are some quite major differences between Germany and the UK at Christmas. We live in Germany but celebrate UK-style, so I only have a hazy idea of some German traditions.

Main celebration is on evening of 24th, when the prezzies are given out. Families often go to a church service/nativity play on Christmas Eve at around 3pm. 25th is a public holiday, but it's mainly a 'hanging out' kind of day. Although I think the 25th is when people have their 'big family meal', which is mostly goose (but turkey is also known).

On Christmas Eve some families eat sausage (because it's quick and easy), but I think carp (yuk) is also traditional. You're supposed to store it in the bathtub. No comment on whether people really still do that.

Christmas is more self-consciously traditional and old fashioned. It's entirely possible that the family will have a communal singing session of Christmas songs (most of which are very different to British ones) and children might be expected to play their musical instrument or recite a poem.

Most trees are real, artificial trees are not unknown, but certainly frowned upon. Traditionally, the tree would have - eek, wait for it - real candles, and I know families who still do this, but the majority would have electric ones. Christmas decorations are traditionally made of painted wood and are quite low-key but beautifully made. You can buy baubles, but people often find the wooden ones (the best are made by a company called Käthe Wohlfahrt) more authentic. I'm not sure the Germans would be overly impressed by British tree decorations by comparison.

There's also general bemusement at the British liking for sweet fruity stuff at Christmas. Christmas pudding (which they insist on calling plum pudding, must be taught at school) and mince pies are known, but I've managed to convince very few Germans that they're yummy. Their loss! So be careful if you bring one over - it might not go down too well. Also, if you're in a big city, there will probably be an expat shop selling mince pies etc anyway. I bought mine last week.

Crackers (Knallbonbons) are known about, but they are usually smaller and used only at New Year, not Christmas. From bitter experience I can tell you that you are not allowed to bring crackers on a plane (actually you'd better check about that - might be you can't bring them in hand luggage only). We buy ours in Germany from the expat shop, and they've been imported by sea. Shortbread might go down well, but our local supermarket sells Walkers shortbread so it's nothing overly special.

What might be really appreciated is, depending on their tastes, either A. some quintessentially British teas (breakfast tea, ie normal tea, Earl Grey etc) and a bone china teapot. Honestly! Or B. If they're a bit more hardcore, a decent bottle of single malt whisky would be appreciated. Make it really obscure and play up how special it is (only X bottles produced a year, X years old in oak casks, really difficult to get hold of etc) Best to buy one at the airport as you can't bring it in hand luggage and I'd be wary of sticking it in my case because of the danger of breaking.

JewelFairies Tue 12-Nov-13 20:49:37

Marmite? English mustard? Whiskey fudge? Mint sauce? HP sauce? Stilton? grin (Just some of the things I've surprised my parents with over the years..)

Not sure about tree decorations but good options are shortbread, fudge, toffee, turkish delight, stockings for the children, mince pies, christmas pudding, christmas cake, brandy butter, crisps/ hoola hoops...

I've been in the UK for over 20 years and there is now much less of a difference between the countries. (I used to import suitcases full of Kinderschokolade and decent coffee.... Ahhhh, happy days.)

Have a lovely Christmas!

4Fags Tue 12-Nov-13 20:53:51

Thanks so much.
Does anyone know if there is an expat shop in Germany that sells them that can maybe send them to my friend's house ahead of time. I so want to give them crackers.
Any idea what to put in the kids' stockings - can I go overboard on children's sweets? Will people be revolted? What about cheesy christmas songs in English (I know the kids will be starting english lessons soon...).
x

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AphraBane Tue 12-Nov-13 21:03:09

This shop delivers throughout Germany. I've never used them because we're in Berlin and we pick up stuff personally from our local shop.

One thing Germans DO understand is going over board on sweet stuff and choccies at Christmas!

Kids' Xmas songs would also be welcome - Germans are very concerned for their kids to learn English early on.

JewelFairies Tue 12-Nov-13 21:04:00

I'd judge the size of stocking and amount of sweets by the age of the child... So small stockings basically. It's really just a token gift isn't it. Or put some stickers/key rings/ stationary inside instead of just sweets. They will be thrilled! smile
dh is British but happily goes along with having presents on Christmas Eve (because it means a lie in on Christmas day rather than being pounced on by two excited children at 5 in the morning) and my two then also get a small stocking on Christmas Day.
Oh, and I have real candles on a real Christmas tree. Some German traditions are hard to give up grin

JewelFairies Tue 12-Nov-13 21:06:41

As for buying Christmas crackers, it depends where you are going. Some larger stores would have them I guess. (I know my friend buys PG tips in my home town from one of the larger stores who have a lot of 'Delikatessen').

AphraBane Tue 12-Nov-13 21:12:23

Ooh, they do some really fun 'gift sets'

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Tue 12-Nov-13 21:13:15

4Fags where in Germany are you going? There are expat shops in most big cities, and I have also heard some department stores and, unexpectedly €1 shops, in Munich (which is my nearest big city) sell crackers. If it is, by any chance, Munich, I'll go back and check which shops and post you a link to the British shop - I've never been to any of those shops in person as I am outside the city and it isn't worth the journey for me, but I know people who do use them.

Germans in my experience so far do not like heavy fruit cakes at all - so I really wouldn't bother with Christmas Cake or Christmas puddings - although my in-laws liked the spectacle of setting the Christmas pudding on fire when I did that for them once, they did not actually eat the pudding (and if they are real Germans they won't politely pretend to like it wink )

My MIL seems to quite like local hand made decorations my mother sends her, but definitely wouldn't like commercial ones (she's a real candles on the tree type) smile She is quite openly bemused by most of the "British" Christmas oddities my mother keeps sending her, and usually tries to palm them back off to me! shock grin

During British week Aldi sells chedder cheese, "English tea" (though it is bizarre stuff and nothing like Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips and the like) toffees, wine gums and shortbread to Germans, so I guess those would go down well! smile

4Fags Tue 12-Nov-13 21:26:24

Thanks again.

Yes, Mr Tumbles, I've already noticed the not pretending to like something thing. I don't think of myself as particuarly English but I am a terrible liar about gifts of any kind, and as a vegetarian have even eaten meat so as not to hurt peoples' feelings. So it is quite a cultural oddity!

Thanks AphraBane: I'm going to order some crackers from that on-line shop and have them sent direct to the house. That seems the best solution. We're going to be in Berlin, but not for that long, so I don't want to spend a load of time trecking round trying to find them when i could just find them there when we arrive.

I'll get some mince pies rather than xmas pudding (because I'll eat that). And a massive tin of M and S shortbread. And some cheddar cheese... And as for the stockings... I'll just do loads of foreign looking sweets (foreign to them anyway), some little trinkets, maybe one christmas bauble each because they are shiny, stickers, etc. I am good at cr*p...

Thanks all so very much for your help.

OP’s posts: |
4Fags Tue 12-Nov-13 22:05:34

Another question.
Re carols. Are they the same in Germany as here.
I know the older child is just learning English and I've got a ladybird kid's book sing along in English christmas carols...
Would that be suitable?

OP’s posts: |
MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Tue 12-Nov-13 22:12:11

Some are the same, many are not... Silent Night is the same... They sing Oh Christmas Tree in German (not a carol really)... Everyone knows Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reign Deer (at least the choruses) but they sing them in English. I don't go to church so those are the only ones ("Christmas songs more than carols, except the first) I can think of tbh. There are certainly lots of German Christmas songs that I have never heard in English.

WallyBantersJunkBox Tue 12-Nov-13 23:14:27

I'm going to go against a few of the posts here...

I made a Christmas cake for my DS's school buffet last year and it had rave reviews from the German parents. I have been asked for two more for the buffet this year and loads asking for the recipe. So I would take a small slab type one.

We have a lot of UK cheeses in our local Kaufland, but things like chutney aren't abundant.

They sell salt and vinegar crisps but they aren't a patch on Walkers. Those M&S posh crips went down a storm at work - lobster, fish & chip flavour etc. Otherwise it's plain, paprika, or BBQ.

If there is a special Marmite - Champagne or Guiness etc that might be nice.

I also had huge success in work with German colleagurs when i've brought in Walnut Whips (an upgrade from the Super Dickmanns I'd say), and any Cadbury's chocolate - so perhaps a tub of Cadbury's Heroes? Crumpets were raved about on the morning of the Royal Wedding too! smile

Agree with the tea - sometimes you get a Christmas version too? When DS's friends parents call round they always ask for a "Proper cup of British tea" grin

DrSeuss Wed 13-Nov-13 09:08:23

Anything is an upgrade from Super Dickmans! I've found anything Royal related went down well, too.

4Fags Wed 13-Nov-13 14:38:08

Thanks so much, all of you, for your brilliant ideas and help!

OP’s posts: |
Naoko Wed 13-Nov-13 14:55:11

I'm Dutch, not German, but my parents have me import Twinings Lady Grey by the bucketload whenever I go home to visit, and when I asked my dad if he wanted me to bring anything over for Christmas, he requested a chocolate orange grin So I suspect either of those would go down well.

I agree that a Christmas cake or pudding might not go down too well, but you might have more luck with mince pies, as long as you explain what they are. My first year in the UK I was utterly baffled when I turned up for a 9am lecture in the last week before Christmas and the lecturer offered us all a mince pie. The British students all enthusiastically took one, the other continental students had the same reaction I did - cold minced beef? In a sweet pie? At 9am? What is wrong with these people?! It took a while to clear up the 'mincemeat = fruit, not actually meat' confusion.

luxemburgerli Wed 13-Nov-13 16:13:50

How about a black cab/double decker bus toy for the younger DC (and older if you think they'd still be into it)? My German PILs are fascinated by London transport types (might just be weird!).

I gave my BIL a pot noodle once. He was not impressed grin

Some people do still do the carp in the bathtub thing - my PILs for one. Had to get them not to do it when I come, can't bear to see it swimming there. I think they do it on New Year's Eve though.

WallyBantersJunkBox Wed 13-Nov-13 19:04:25

Naoko the traditional mince pie years ago would have had minced meat in it, with spices to preserve it and that is where the name came from.

So you weren't wrong to question it!

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