Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Christmas biscuits

My students never really believe me when I tell them that when I first arrived in Germany I honestly couldn’t speak German. I mean, I had a few basics to say hello, ask the way to the station and ask for some ham in a supermarket! But once I knew the way to the station, there really wasn’t much else I could talk about. It felt really uncomfortable and I quickly started to expand my vocabulary and understanding even if I didn’t talk very much. That was in the summer of 2001 and by my very first Christmas here, I realised I had a lot to learn about the vocabulary as well as the customs and traditions of celebrating the season German style. We have a lot of German influences in the UK (a topic for another week perhaps), which I was familiar with but there were so many differences that my first Christmas was somewhat of a culture shock!

One of those was the tradition of baking Christmas biscuits. It’s really not something we do in the UK in such an intense way as in the US where they bake a lot of cookies or here, where I quickly learnt the German phrase “Weihnachtplätzchen”! Many of my students came to class telling me all about their baking Sunday where they produced kilos and kilos of a million different types of biscuits which would keep their sweet teeth, as well as their family’s, happy. Of course, these biscuits need to be home-made with recipes that they have used over the years but it doesn’t hurt to increase your repertoire with new recipes which can be found in every single cooking or women’s magazine at this time of year. Wanting to embrace this idea and learn some new vocabulary at the same time, I scooped up dozens of these publications, each cover more brightly decorated with gorgeous biscuits than the next. I learnt to translate these recipes into something I could understand and to get to know the flavours popular here. My husband was delighted and I had a whole new area of things to talk about in German, which was great. It’s sort of learning through the calendar – get involved in the activities at each time of the year and use it to extend your language learning!

Anyway, back in the UK we often make ginger biscuits at Christmas as ginger is a popular winter spice and these can be crisp or soft and might even be decorated – similar to “Lebkuchen” but not really the same! However, the recipe I have from home uses a particular sugar syrup that I struggle to find in Germany so I needed to find some other types to make to feel like I was joining in on the German traditions. I tried out many different recipes and over the years have settled on a handful of varied biscuits with a mix of recipes from “home”, which I used to bake throughout the year, not just at Christmas, as well as some new-to-me German ones. This provides the cultural mix that I try to bring into all aspects of our life and include Florentines, Nuss-Schoko, Zimtsterne, biscotti, shortbread and chocolate, black pepper biscuits which are simply amazing – rich chocolate with a hint of pepper mmmmmmm.

I think that the tradition of Christmas biscuits is becoming more popular in the UK today, no doubt a result of globalisation – US cookies and German Aldi are strong influencers! – but we do have a lot of baking which I’ll touch on next week!

The question is, do I have time to bake even ONE type of biscuit this year??



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?