Today, the Ambassador of Germany to Indonesia, Dr. Georg Witschel explains how Christmas is celebrated in his home country and shares with us the recipe for one of Germany’s all time Christmas favourites: Vanillekipferl.
Mr Ambassador, how do families in Germany typically celebrate Christmas?
Several days before Christmas most Germans put up Christmas trees that are decorated with baubles and tinsel. A lot of families attend church before they traditionally spend Christmas Eve with their close family members. The tree’s candles are lit on Christmas Eve before the children enter the until-then closed living rooms in order to find their presents piled up under the Christmas trees. A typical Christmas dish is potato salad and wieners. On Christmas Day a lot of families will have the traditional Christmas Roast.
Is there a unique German Christmas tradition?
About three up to four weeks before Christmas many Germans bake the traditional “Christstollen” which is supposed to be saved until Christmas in order to get its distinctive taste and flavor. The shape and white colour remind people of the Jesus child being wrapped in swaddling clothes. Another tradition is the Advent Wreath with four candles of which every Sunday one more is lit starting from 4 weeks before Christmas. It was supposed to break down time until Christmas especially for the impatient children.
As a tourist visiting Germany around Christmas, where should I go and what should I see and do?
You should definitely see at least one of the famous German Christmas Markets where different culinary specialties or handicraft like ceramics and Räuchermännchen (incense smoker) are sold. Besides that there are many lovely Christmas concerts of choirs and/or orchestras. As this is often for free this is also something worth doing during Christmas time.
Do you mind sharing a personal Christmas memory with us?
There are many sweet memories, but perhaps our first Christmas in New York – where I was posted from 1998 – 2001 – is the most memorable to me. Our daughter was less than one year old and fascinated by the singing and the candles in our church on Christmas eve. She tried to imitate somehow the melodies and to blow out one of the candles. However, when we came home to show her the Christmas tree with all its lights and plentiful decoration, she was fast asleep – maybe dreaming of a White Christmas.
What is your favourite Christmas dish? Can you share the recipe?
A variety of Christmas cookies are sweetening the waiting time to the eagerly anticipated Christmas Eve. One of my favorite recipes – Vanillekipferl – is a very easy one.
You need 80 g butter, 70 g of shelled and ground almonds, 50 g of sugar, 2 egg yolks, and 210 g of plain flour. You simply mix all the ingredients and put the dough into the fridge for an hour. The dough is rolled out to a thickness of about 1 cm before you cut it into pieces and form crescent-shaped cookies. Cook them at 200 C for 10 minutes. Spread icing sugar and vanilla sugar over the freshly baked cookies.