‘Tis the season to be …. what exactly?
An Anglo-German take on Christmas
I’m a late Christmas baby. Born December 29, to be precise. Come December 1, I revert back to childhood modus, eyes beaming and my heart filled with anticipatory excitement, beating along the tunes of both cheesy and more traditional Christmas songs.
It is generally believed that people of dual nationality and/or with a bicultural background display low-degree schizophrenia, what with being eternally torn between two nations, two distinct cultural heritages, picking and choosing what one prefers best.
I can’t really say I’m any better, as I forever oscillate between two poles, at least at Christmas. Christmas – another prime example in a long series of Anglo-Saxon dichotomies.
While the stolid Germans bestow it with their customary mix of unwavering traditionalism and deeply ingrained christianity, the hedonistic, pagan Brits turn Christmas into yet another alcohol-fuelled, fun-filled debauchery.
I first caught a glimpse of this at university, with invitations for Christmas parties causing my mailbox to overflow at alarming speed. Said parties were a far fetch from the civilised advent tea parties I would grow accustomed to later on in Germany. If anything, the amount of booze flowing at English Christmas parties stood in stark, if not blasphemous contrast with the actual cause for celebration, i.e the fast approaching birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Another heathen rite: skimpy, glittery cocktail dresses fast becoming a wardrobe staple, not leaving much to the tinsel-blurred imagination during the festive season. Never mind all the shenanigans going on at office christmas parties in the City of London.
The somewhat impatient and astute reader will probably interject at this point “so what? Chacun à sa façon!” Case in point. But not if you have grown up in a distinctly bicultural family, witnessing year after year, in the final days leading up to Christmas the “Battle of the Titans”. The titans being, yes, you guessed it right, les parents, the bone of contention being the day on which to open the presents and celebrate in due form. Needless to say the German bully comes out triumphant 98% of the time, with the English part giving in diplomatically, albeit with clenched teeth.
Irrespective of cultural clashes, it is above all the season to be kind, forgiving and less egocentric. Be jolly but in moderation, for there may be someone/a few who don’t have much cause for celebration. The Germans have a wonderful, yet fairly un-translatable word to describe their idea of a quiet and contemplative Christmas: “Besinnlichkeit”. Which nevertheless washes down nicely with a glass of mulled pwine and homemade christmas cookies, it has to be said.
Be jolly, be contemplative, go to church, OD on christmas pudding/cookies or mulled wine – do whatever rocks your boat during the festive season. Just never forget the following: