Celebrating Winter in Bavaria (2012)

I’m linking to Donna at Gardens Eye View today, who hosts “Seasonal Celebrations“, a meme where people from all over the world are invited to tell how they celebrate each season, sharing traditions and celebrations in pictures and words.

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‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world’s whole sap is sunk…

From “A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day” by John Donne

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As the days get darker and shorter in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice, activity tends to move indoors; the winter baking season begins – mince pies for my British palate and traditional German cookies – filling the house with warm spicy aromas; books that have been piling up on the shelf are picked up and reading becomes a cosy necessity; the remaining flowers are brought indoors to be cosseted; and the fireplace will soon be my favourite place to sit.

Christmas baking

Once the fire is lit – when the central heating can no longer keep the house warm – this Barbara branch will have to be moved to a cooler spot. It is a tradition in Germany to cut branches of fruit or nut trees, or Forsythia, on St Barbara’s Day (4th December) and bring them into the house to flower by Christmas.

Barbarazweig

We usually have some snow before Christmas, although it doesn’t always hang around. This year surprised us with a sprinkling at the end of October, but the first REAL snow fell just before the beginning of Advent – bang on time for the opening of the Christmas markets. The markets add colour, warmth and aroma to any shopping trip… imagine the smell of spicy roasted almonds, cinnamon crepes, mulled wine and punch, not to mention roasting chestnuts…

ChristkindlemarktIN

Some of you have perhaps heard of the famous Christkindlemarkt in Nuremburg, but a small town may have just one weekend of market stands in Advent, attracting the locals to stock up on baking ingredients, drink some hot punch with friends and neighbours, invest in some woollen socks or just pick out a few new decorations for the tree.

ChristkindlemarktIN2

Since November and December are so gloomy and foggy in this central Bavarian region, due to the weather patterns around the River Danube and surrounding waterways, the snow really brightens things up…

Winter Greenery

On 21st December 2012 the solstice will be at midday (Central European Time) and on this day only 7 hours 48 minutes of “sunlight” can be recorded. If you live in the Alps you may be fortunate enough to actually see this sunlight too! When the sun does break through the clouds the landscape here looks simply magical. The woodland covered hills coated in sparkly snow are an uplifting sight.

SnowyVillage

In winter every single ray of sunshine or hint of colour is relished…

Mahonia

And every single sunshiny moment is a delight…

(This is the Professor, in case you haven’t met him before)

TheProfessor

Advent is a very cosy time of year here, and is enjoyed with candlelight and cookies. (Christmas doesn’t really arrive until the tree is brought into the house a few days before Christmas Eve.)

This is our Christmas tree, standing proud in the garden…

Tannenbaum1

With just a few days to go before the solstice, here are some typical sayings for a Bavarian December – roughly translated!

Friert’s am kürzesten Tag im Jahr, ist’s an Weihnachten hell und klar.

Frost on the shortest day of the year, Christmas will be bright and clear.

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Ist Sankt Lazarus nackt und bar, gibt es einen linden Februar.

St Lazarus (Dec 17th) without snow and dry, brings a mild February.

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Wenn der St. Thomas dunkel war, gibt’s ein schönes neues Jahr.

A dark St Thomas Day (Dec 21st) means a good new year. (!)

😀