Merry, Merry Christmas! I suppose I’m a day late, but today is Boxing Day in Germany so a holiday for many. Which means the stores are closed. The buses are running on a slower schedule. And I have a whole day with nothing to do! 🙂 This is our first Christmas abroad and I wanted to share with you about how we made the most of our day away from home!
I read enough blogs and listened to enough podcasts to know that we needed to be prepared for the emotions of spending the holidays away from family.
So we did just that! We made it a point to go to as many Christmas Markets as we could. Our first Christmas Market was the “main” market here in Regensburg.
Christmas Markets in Germany
A Christmas Market is basically a combination of Marketdays, Wassailfest, and Wurstfest. You have all the trinkets and homemade items you find at Marketdays. There are special drinks similar to wassail. Only here it is Glühwein- basically hot mulled wine. And then all the sausage and food you could want like at Wurstfest.
They begin late November, early December. And the town square area was set up with carts for all the vendors. There are tons of Christmas lights everywhere. Often there are choirs or bands playing music. It really is completely magical!
There are three or four markets here in our little town and I think we got to visit all of them!
The “fanciest” Market is at the castle in our little town called Thurn and Taxis. This market you have to pay to get into. But it was worth it! We went with an American friend I met and her German husband. Which was very helpful cause when we couldn’t understand something in German he would explain it to us!
But this market is so gorgeous and because we had to pay to get into it, it felt less crowded. This market also was really good about offering homemade items. Some of the other markets seemed to have vendors selling “oriental trading” type stuff.
Christmas Market in Nürnberg
We also did a day trip to Nürnberg to visit the Christmas Market there. Unfortunately, the weather was quite disgusting so it made the day not that enjoyable.
If only I had a picture of him with his tongue out thinking 😉
But we made the most of it! We arrived by train (which I absolutely LOVED riding) around noon and found a Tex Mex restaurant for lunch.
Then we walked around the market for a bit. We found some Glühwein and some Americans to snap our picture in front of the church.
Side note, Cody and I don’t get to hear American accents that often anymore, so when we do we kind of geek out. It’s like “oh, you’re our people! hi!” And in Nürnberg there were a TON of Americans!
While walking around the market we stumbled into the main Cathedral. They were having a “concert” while a man was playing the organ.
We did a little bit more site seeing by walking up to the castle Nürnberg is famous for. (“berg” is castle in German!)
As I said above, the weather was nasty! Freezing. Rainy. So gross. So we found this historic brewery near the castle and settled in there for a couple of beers. It was so cozy and dreamy. It made me so happy!
Because the day was nasty and only getting worse, we decided to head back to the train station to see if we could catch an earlier train back. Unbeknownst to us, it seems as though when you buy a train ticket, you can ride any train that day in the “area” of your ticket. So, it was 6:27 when we asked the customer service agent if we could get on a different train to Regensburg. He said yes and we saw that the next train was leaving at 6:30.
We hauled through the station and made it to the platform about a minute before the train rolled in! We were home before our original train even left Nürnberg!
Our Christmas Celebration
I was determined to make our home feel as “Christmasy” as possible. So when a friend sent me a link to a company that delivered Christmas trees to you, I jumped on it!
When we got the tree, it was so funny looking.
Also, if you look closely in the first picture, you can see we didn’t have a proper Christmas tree stand so we put it in a salad spinner bowl and tied some string to it to keep it standing up. Literally every time I walked by the tree I laughed at how silly it was and how, of course, this is the tree I ended up with after ordering it offline!
But, once we got a stand and some lights, I decided to “trim the tree” and we made her look much better! I am actually quite fond of her!
We didn’t have any ornaments except for the three or four I brought with us. So I ended up using some Advent cards I had brought with us and hung them around as “ornaments.” I thought it was kind of fun and unique!
Plus, my sister and Cody’s grandma sent us some ornaments as well!
About a week before Christmas we decided to make a “plan” for the holiday. I was worried that if we flew by the seat of our pants, it would leave room for a lot of unwanted emotion and sadness.
We decided to spend Christmas Eve Day alone, just the two of us. The morning was spent putting together some last pieces of furniture and removing all of the cardboard boxes from our living room down to the Kellar.
Then in the evening, we cooked a traditional German Christmas Eve dinner.
The Germans actually celebrate Christmas and open presents on Christmas Eve. Because of this, they have a simple dinner with sausage and potatoes (or potato salad). I thought it would be fun to include this tradition into our celebration. But we added our twist to it by roasting the potatoes because that’s pretty much my fav food!
After dinner we decided to start prepping the chicken and the egg casserole for the following day. This is about the time we realized that our Christmas Chicken was actually a duck….
We had a momentary freak out because no stores were open and there was nothing we could do about it.
Luckily, Cody being the amazing cook that he is, researched and created a game plan for the duck!
Christmas morning we woke up and got breakfast going. One of Cody’s favorite Christmas traditions is a big Christmas breakfast. So we did our best to recreate that by cooking his Mom’s egg casserole and some pigs in a blanket! I also made some banana bread the night before that we included in our breakfast.
We decided instead of exchanging gifts, we would stuff each others stockings with goodies. So before breakfast we opened our goodies and Milo and Scout got to open their stockings- Shout out to Mom and Allison for sending the pups treats for their stockings!!!
We had guests coming over around 3:00 for dinner so we spent the rest of the day cooking. It was actually really fun and enjoyable. The last two times we have had guests over we have been running around frantically before they arrive because we were crunched for time!
But this time was different. We took our time, worked together, and had a lot of fun along the way.
I started the morning by making my Memaw’s butterscotch candies. Germans don’t have butterscotch here. In fact, it was €91 to order 12 packages of butterscotch morsels off Amazon.
Lucky for me, I spent the previous weekend in Prague with my older sister and she saved the day. I had text my family about the absurdity of no butterscotch here. So when Allison got into Houston, Mom and her went to Target (Miss you, girl!) and got me some butterscotch candies.
Anyways, I made the candies. But they have to sit in the fridge/freezer for a couple of hours to harden. And we don’t have enough fridge space or any freezer space. So I had to get resourceful.
Because it’s practically as cold as a fridge outside, I opened up the windows and sat the cookies on the window ledge to harden!
Our Christmas Meal consisted of
chicken duck, Laurie’s sweet potato soufflé (half with brown sugar topping, half with marshmallows!), green beans, mashed potatoes, Memaw’s green pistachio salad, Laurie’s homemade rolls, and Memaw’s butterscotch candies/cookies.
All was going well. We were prepping the potatoes. Cody had the rolls rising. The duck was sitting in the fridge doing something, not sure- Cody handled that.
We decided to make Memaw’s green pistachio salad next. I should first state that this isn’t an actual salad. It’s cool whip mixed with pistachio pudding mix, crushed pineapples, and marshmallows. It’s a staple at every Buchtien Holiday Meal.
Anyways, I asked Cody to whip the cream for me (because, again, absurd, NO COOL WHIP IN GERMANY!)
Little did we know, the cream must be COLD in order to make whipped cream. Our cream was room temperature.
Do you know what room temp cream makes? Butter. It makes butter.
I took the dogs outside to the bathroom and came back inside. There was cream all on the backsplash from the whipping process. Cody told me that we had a problem and showed me the “cool whip.”
He had, in fact, made butter.
And because no stores are open on Christmas, we had to xnay (is that a word? My mom says it, so I am saying it is!) Memaw’s green pistachio salad. BOOOOOOO! I think our guests would have loved it!
Anyways, we continued on with our cooking. We only had one other mishap when I forgot the sweet potatoes were in the oven with marshmallows on them.
They completely burned. And the international guests we had over were very confused as to why I was putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes!
About a week before Christmas I put a note on the Facebook group I am a part of for English speakers in Regesnburg. I offered our home and a Christmas meal to anyone spending the holiday alone.
We had four people respond that they were interested. No one knew each other and everyone (except for me and Cody) was from a different country – all living here in Regensburg for less than a year.
It was really cool to meet new people- completely different from us. Some who don’t even celebrate Christmas for the religious aspect. We all talked about our different holiday celebrations from our respective countries.
I learned that in Russia they celebrate on January 6th. Who knew?!?
The girl from Russia asked if we eat squirrel in Texas.
“Of course we don’t, that’s disgusting!” I replied.
“Only backwood, redneck people do that.” I said.
“What does that mean?” Daria asked.
“Well…redneck, backwoods people are usually not very educated. They carry their guns around and shoot animals and drink beer and ONLY CARE ABOUT AMERICA! They will shoot a squirrel and cook it. But that’s about it” I explained.
Cody piped up behind me “ummm…I’ve eaten squirrel before.”
“WHAT?!?! That’s disgusting” I said, while everyone was laughing at this exchange between Cody and myself.
Because I understand Cody’s family and know how those boys were growing up, I knew exactly then what had happened.
“You and your brothers took your gun outback and shot a squirrel and ate it, didn’t you?” I asked him.
Cody just smiled and shook his head “yeah, me and Cole. We fried it”
Everyone got a kick out of that!
They asked how they squirrel tasted to which Cody responded “kinda nutty.”
He got a kick out of his joke. I am not sure if the others understood it, but I thought it was pretty funny!
After everyone left, we spent time Facetiming our families. Then we spent the rest of the evening doing our favorite things; Cody- videogames, Me- blogging! (I finally got the blog about our first month here in Regensburg completed- along with a video tour of our temporary apartment!)
Although it was hard to be away from family during the holidays- we actually had a really great day! It was also kind of nice to be able to spend the day doing our own thing and not have to worry about splitting the holiday.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who sent us a Christmas card this year! And a special shoutout to Cody’s grandmas who sent us little gifts from home! It’s hard to not feel a little bit “forgotten” over here. So the people who sent us a Christmas card or a Merry Christmas text- thank you! It means a lot to me!!!
Until next time,