Lisa's week: All quiet on Christmas Eve
The month of December is slipping by and in just a few short days the festive time of Christmas will be here.
This time of year is all about family and being with the ones you love. But when your family is in two different countries, this can mean that difficult decisions have to be made.
Over the years we’ve spent time away on holiday a few times, done the full traditional German Christmas and have been back to the UK a couple of times. This year, we are heading under the Channel again. But on Christmas Day. So we get to have the German Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas Day with turkey and all the trimmings with my own English family. A little of both, connected by a full day of driving to get there with a car full of gifts and a whole lot of Christmas cheer. And there’s a new baby in the family over in Birmingham to meet and coo over which is terribly exciting.
But I remember the first time, after many years of living here, that it really came home to me just HOW different the traditions of Christmas were.
It was the long, cold, white winter of 2010/11. Do you remember just how much snow we got? Did you get as excited as me when it became clear that we were going to have the whitest of Christmases? I’ve got this memory that it started snowing in November and didn’t stop until February which I’m sure is a total exaggeration but I know that on the morning of Christmas Eve we all woke up to a snow-covered winter wonderland and it didn’t stop snowing all day - I measured 30cm of snow outside on our balcony.
As you all know, Germany closes on Christmas Eve around lunchtime whereas in the UK, it’s a pretty normal working day with last minute shopping, a chaos trip to the supermarket and maybe even a full day at work. I used to go out and meet friends in the evening and then play “Father Christmas” with my mum in the middle of the night for my little brothers and sister.
Anyway, back in 2010 the day was already quiet with all that snow, but throughout the morning the traffic on the street got less and less. The sound of a single car driving past broke through the silence of the falling snow. The fairy lights on balconies, in windows and draped over trees shone bright and sparkled among the snowflakes. And it got quieter and quieter and quieter until there wasn’t a single noise to be heard outside. No cars were driving past. No children were out making snowmen. The only sound to break the silence was the pitter-patter of snow landing on snow and the ringing of the church bells in the evening.
I was amazed. I don’t think the UK is ever that silent, even on Christmas Day, which is the only day of the year that the shops are closed by law. Well, maybe if you live in the countryside or the Highlands of Scotland but never in Birmingham. I remember writing on social media that I was switching off for Christmas as the country had “gone home to celebrate” and the streets were quiet and empty. A few of my US friends told me how wonderful that sounded as they set off to battle to the shops for some last minute purchases.
But Germany fell silent. I realised that everyone was at home, or at church and the yearly customs were being followed in intimate family settings. We spent our day inside, preparing our own Christmas just for two and marvelling at the snow outside. We had fondue and lit our Advent candles before exchanging gifts. Each activity we did was new for my German life and was nothing new in reality but I don’t think I’d really “noticed” it before. I seemed to capture every tiny detail.
As a family, we’ve learnt to compromise and to bring traditions together from both sides of the Channel to make our very own version of Christmas. And I’ve grown to love my new German customs just as much as my English turkey dinner and Christmas crackers!
And now I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year! I’ll see you back here in 2019.
And don’t forget to notice the silence that descends over Germany on Christmas Eve! It’s special!
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky
Episode 16: Through the tunnel
Episode 17: Keep left!
Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise
Episode 19: How do you say that?
Episode 20: Back to School!
Episode 21: Sweet cravings
Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?
Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"
Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)
Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?
Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.
Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!
Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot
Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?
Episode 30: Bless you!
Episode 31: What are you thankful for?
Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?
Episode 33: What's behind the door?
Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!
Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?
Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year
Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?
Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2
Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?
Episode 40: Sweet Valentine
Episode 41: A Reminder
Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!
Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils
Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question
Episode 45: The whole world's going green!
Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs
Episode 47: The joke's on you!
Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!
Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings
Episode 50: We use German words too
Episode 51: Celebrating St George
Episode 52: The perfect start to the day
Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)
Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)
Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)
Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!
Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1
Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2
Episode 59: Summer Solstice
Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20
Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live
Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Episode 63: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!
Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge
Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ
Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)
Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)
Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland
Episode 70: The first day of school
Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!
Episode 72: Celebrating language
Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!
Episode 74: My favourite time of the year
Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading
Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat
Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime
Episode 78: Talking Tenners
Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?
Episode 80: Just another few minutes!
Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.
Episode 82: What sign are you?
Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth
Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!
Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions
Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring
Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose
Episode 88: Once in a blue moon
Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1
Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2
Episode 91: This is the travel news!
Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!
Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week
Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back
Episode 95: Holy Week
Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time
Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!
Episode 98: Part of the family
Episode 99: It's a boy!
Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!
Episode 101: To all the mothers out there
Episode 102: Up, up and away
Episode 103: A very British affair!
Episode 104: Getting boarded!
Episode 105: How do you say that?
Episode 106: Ready for departure?
Episode 107: Happy Father's Day
Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)
Episode 109: Can football really come home?
Episode 110: A right royal christening
Episode 111: Touch down!
Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare
Episode 113: The same but different
Episode 114: A long hot summer
Episode 115: Germany through a visitor's eyes
Episode 116: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 1)
Episode 117: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 2)
Episode 118: All the fun of the fair
Episode 119: What's your "thing"?
Episode 120: Imagining out loud
Episode 121: Springing forward and falling back
Episode 122: In Remembrance
Episode 123: Nearly a whole month of surprises
Episode 124: Who's that at the door?