Tag Archives: Christmas Traditions

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Hello Friends!

Tonight I come to you from Hamburg, Germany. My host family has a couple of items on display in celebration of the season that I had some questions about and I would like to share what I learned with you now.

First up is something I’ve seen before, however I didn’t know too much about them until tonight. In German it is called adventskalender and in English it is known as an Advent Calendar.

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I’m sure that you have seen them around here and there, but did you know the idea for the Advent Calendar has it’s origins in Germany? It is a very common way to celebrate the season here! Let me share how it works:

Advent is the four-week period of time leading up to Christmas. It begins each year on the first Sunday after November 26th, however the calendar generally begins on December 1st and goes until the 24th to help children count down the days until Christmas. As you see in the above picture, there are 24 little doors on a Santa designed adventskalender. There are many different designs, but the concept of opening doors is a part of all of them. Each day the next door is opened and inside you will find a little treat in the form of a small toy or chocolate candy. Behind the “prize” is usually a picture or sometimes a bible verse all leading up to Christmas Eve. The picture or Bible verse could also be found on the door once it’s opened, or they may be blank. There are many different kinds of Adventskalenders!

What started out in the 19th century as making a chalk line for every day in advent leading up to Christmas evolved into what you can find in stores at this time of year pre-made with a heavy paper and chocolates already inside. In Germany, however, where most homes have an Advent Calendar, you will find more permanent structures such as the adorable Santa above that are refilled each year with small chocolates or trinkets. Here is a couple of links if you would like to learn more:

http://www.sellmer-verlag.de/shop2/about-advent-calendars.php

http://www.aboutgerman.net/AGNwords/advent-facts-01.htm

If you would also like to learn more about Advent you can find some information here:

http://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html

Onto the second item. This is Adventskranz:

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Here I am with an Adventskranz or, in English, an Advent Wreath,  sometimes referred to as an Advent crown. It is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until all the candles are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas.

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century, however it was a Protestant pastor named Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 – 1881) who was the inventor of the modern Advent wreath. Children at Rauhes Haus, the school he founded in Hamburg, Germany, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. So in 1839, he built a large wooden ring with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The small candles were lit successively during Advent and on Sundays one of the large white candles were lit. It eventually evolved into the smaller wreath with the 4 candles known today. Some have five candles, the fifth being lit on Christmas Day.

I thought it was pretty amazing that both of these items that are now found around the world originated in Germany. One of them right here in Hamburg! I know it is a bit difficult to see because all of the candles are lit, but the wreath is made with Christmas tree branches. Here is a photo I found online so you can better see the branches:

Adventskranz

Speaking of Christmas Trees… did you know that they ALSO origninated in Germany? Maybe I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, right now I should get some rest. Thanks for joining me!

Sincerely,

Traveling Sam

Family Traditions week!

Hello everyone!

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

I am here in Winchester, Virginia helping my host family and they have kindly let me participate in their family tradition of baking reindeer cookies for Santa. I hope to share more family traditions this week so please send in your pictures!

We found this special peanut butter cookie recipe to use for the base of our reindeer cookies. We were excited because they promised soft peanut butter cookies (and they delivered!) Here is a link to the website we found the recipe on. Be sure to check out her other treats!

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/soft-peanut-butter-cookie-recipe/

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) of salted butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

chocolate chips

pretzels

M&M’s (preferably the brown and red!)

Directions

In a large bowl with a handheld or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

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Mix in peanut butter, then the egg, and then the vanilla.

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In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and flour.

Wait... WHAT? We remembered flour and baking soda but COMPLETELY missed the salt and baking powder but guess what? They were STILL yummy! (in my defense, I'm a bit under the weather!)

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

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IMG_6158  Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into balls. Spread a thin layer of granulated sugar on a plate and roll each dough ball to evenly coat (if desired*). *we did not do this part because we were about to make reindeer.

Add chocolate chip eyes, an M&M for the nose, and pretzels for the antlers.

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On an ungreased baking sheet, bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops begin to *slightly* crack. Do not bake longer than this.  Cookies will look undone, but will firm up as they cool.

Transfer to a cooling rack very VERY carefully! Those antlers take some practice to handle!

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Those smell delicious! I hope we can manage to save one for Santa in a couple nights! What kind of cookies do you make for Christmas?

Until tomorrow,

Traveling Sam