Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Weihnachten

     Well, dear readers, it's been a lovely, cold, cheery, Christmas-y week. Let me preface this entry by saying I am full to the brim with tea, cake, Lebkuchen, and Glühwein, so anything I say can and will be used against me in...what?

     Anyway, I apologize for skipping blithely over the last nine days of Christmas. If I know you, my dear readers, most of you have spent that intervening time crying over your computers, sobbing into your coffee,  and bemoaning your place in the universe that has someone caused you not to have been gifted with an update into the fascination of my life.

      Not to worry. I'm saving you. (I warned you about the Glühwein effects, did I not? Don't whine.)

      Skipping over the end of last week, which I frankly have very little recollection of, this past weekend brought a true Christmas treat (for this California girl, anyway): our first real snow! Though it "stuck" for only a couple days (and if I must be honest, only on the streets for about...two hours, but please, grant me this one?), it was way too exciting, and the promise of like a full week of snow starting this weekend has me more thrilled than I care to admit. Except I am admitting it. Thank me for my honestly later. See the sacrifices I'm making for the sake of this blog's verity?

      Okay, people from snowier climes than mine, hush your laughter. I can hear you all the way over the  Atlantic. I'll admit, it's not super impressive looking, but it's more the promise of snow to come that I'm excited about. And there's something magical about the first snowfall of the year. (I say this with the wisdom of someone who grew up having, on average, 0.33 snowfalls annually. Thus, I know.)

      About two hours into said snowfall, kids, parents and I bundled into the car to head into town. Anne and Michael were heading to a friend's party that evening, and it was far enough away they decided to get a hotel room for the night rather than drive back late, so the kids and I were scheduled for a whole night (plus following morning) together. I, of course, had to complicate this by having a choir concert that afternoon, so some juggling ensued, ending with the solution that the kids hang at Michael's sister's house until my concert was over, where I would collect them and take them home on the U-Bahn/bus. Fortunately Michael's sister and her husband live in an apartment only about an eight-minute walk from where my concert was, so all seemed to be working out well!

      I headed over to the church where my concert was (Damenstiftskirche St. Anna, in case you were wondering), thankfully in the grateful company of my umbrella, and arrived in perfect time. The church we sang in was lovely--quite small, with probably seating room for only about fifty, but beautifully decorated and resonant. One slightly odd feature was a life-sized sculpture of the last supper: ever sang a concert with 13 men staring at you from behind? Slightly unusual. The concert hall was also freezing--almost literally. I've never before sang a concert where I could actually see my breath whilst singing. My hands almost fell off. The concert went quite well, and definitely better than I'd expected, at any rate! There was quite a good audience turn-out, as well. For those interested, here was the program (with links, if you care to hear them. Not of us singing, though.):

     Rorate coeli desuper mit ne irascaris und consolamini (Listen here)
     Palestrina: Missa Gabriel Archangelus, Kyrie (sorry, not on youtube)
     Gregorianischer Choral: Gaudete in Domino, Dominus prope est (Listen! And yes, we sang off that manuscript)
     Palestrina: Missa Gabriel Archangelus, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei I & II

     Jakob Arcadelt: Ave Maria (More listen!)
     Palestrina: Alma redemptoris mater (Listen)
     Palestrina: Sicut lilium (listen here!)
     Max Reger: Und unser lieben Frauen Traum (Weihnachtslied) (listen!)

     Heinrich Isaac: Puer natus est nobis (starts at 2:50)
     Michael Praetorius: In dulci jubilo (AKA Good Christian Men, Rejoice)
     Praetorius: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen ( AKA Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming)

     Sei uns willkommen, Herre Christ (here!)
     Zoltan Kodaly: Adventi enek (AKA O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

     Everything was very well received, and really a lot of fun! Unfortunately I was about to drop dead from the cold afterward, and the puddle I'd stepped in in my no-longer-waterproof boots didn't help. Struggling back to Michael's sister's apartment afterwards (in the rain, I might add) was quite a challenge. But I made it! Ulrike and her husband had made pizza for the kids and had me stay, of course, which was a nice chance to let my soaking wet socks dry on top of the radiator. The pizza was good too (though I had to surreptitiously pick the pepperoni off).  When the kids started getting in fights with their cousin Julian over who was hitting whose blocks (Julian is 18 months old, so you can get the picture), I knew it was time to go. Mentally preparing myself for the fifteen-minute trek to the U-bahn, and then the half an hour it would take to get home, I was more than thrilled when Ulrike told me her husband would drive us home. Given the snow that was now falling quite heavily, I was glad the opportunity came up.

      Staying the night alone with the kids was more nerve-wracking than I would have anticipated. I was supposed to set up the baby monitor so I could hear them in the night/morning, but I couldn't find it, so I figured I'd just leave my door open and it'd be fine. But the thought of them waking up and me not being up, or freaking out in the middle of the night really got to me, and I tossed and turned most of the night, dreaming about child abductions and such things. I finally went up to lie on the couch at about six, and then Kilian snuck down at about 6:30, and thus the day was started. Anne and Michael had assured the kids they'd be home "in the morning," but Kilian's five-year-old brain translates "morning" as "when we eat breakfast." Thus, he was a nervous wreck by the time his parents came home at about 10:30. I gratefully escaped back down to my room to shower and recuperate before my second concert. 

     The second concert also went very well. It was at a church within a senior care center, so most of the attendees were elderly people in their wheelchairs, who were incredibly appreciative. My family was also sweet enough to come for the first half hour (which was sadly the hardest-to-appreciate half), which was really fun for me. After the concert I headed into the city center to meet my family at one of the Christmas markets so they could buy me a glühwein (I love Germany and Christmas). Then I headed off to meet a friend at the nearby Medieval Christmas market in Wittelsbacher Platz. 

     I sadly didn't take any pictures, so I'll be sure to go back so I don't let you down. But basically picture a Christmas version of the Renaissance Faire! There were booths selling bows and arrows, belt knives, suits of armor, Renaissance dresses, homemade fruit wine (free samples!), and lots of other fun stuff, even fire-eaters up on top of one of the booths. The food was even more exciting: lots of delicious concoctions like cheese breads, Kaiserschmarren, noodles, Bratwurst, skewers of grilled meat wrapped in dough, and even a booth roasting an entire pig. Like, as in its little face looked at you as it turned over the fire. Eww. The highlight were the Feuerzangenbowlen. It's your typical glühwein, but with a sugar cube on the side and rum poured over the whole thing, then lit on fire. NOM. SO NOM. 

     The rest of the week was fairly more low-key. Tuesday night I went out to Tollwood, the huge Christmas market/festival on the Theresienwiese, the meadow where Oktoberfest takes place. The huge tents from Oktoberfest are present, but instead of being filled with drunken, beer-sodden maniacs, they're full of shopping booths! It's very similar to the huge trade show areas at county fairs. There were booths of everything: children's toys, weird clothes, handmade slippers, jam, a huge booth of mustard, pesto (one was called Li-Bi-Do, for Man and Woman. Aphrodisiac pesto=awkward?), picture frames, smelly soaps, and basically everything imaginable. A particularly memorable one was the booth of rare sausages: zebra, eland, gnu, and wild boar. 


German version of Teavana


     Yesterday and today were the kids' Christmas celebrations at the Kindergarten.  Any traditional kids' class ends before Christmas with a play, and this rule follows in Germany as well. Cliona's party on Thursday began with a cute play called "Ein Märchen im Schnee (A Fairytale in Snow)." Basically, man goes for a walk with his dog, drops his glove, animals use it for a bed. Very hard to follow with loud kids shrieking and not saying their lines, but very cute! Cliona, being one of the youngest, was a snowflake, and did a very cute little snowflake dance (that being spinning in a circle with some cotton in her hands). They then all sang a song, for which Cliona stood front in center with her hands up to her mouth giggling hysterically. Perhaps acting is not in her future.  Play is followed by salads and goodies and treats (and of course, the ubiquitous glühwein).

     Today was Kilian's play, the "Concert of the Animals." The kids were all dressed like different animals (from rabbit to sheep to mouse to cat to rooster to bird to elephant), and the little groups came out, played their instrument, the older kid in the group said a little poem, then they danced a little animal dance. Kilian was a bear, and he said his poem and danced super well. I was very proud.

Kilian's the tall one!
All the kids
Bears playing their tambourines 
Kilian in the middle. Note the little nose-picker on the left.
     And what did we do after the play? You guessed it. Ate goodies and drank glühwein. There are days when being an au pair can be tough, but my friends, today was not one of them! Unfortunately this batch was a little burnt, so it tasted a bit like someone had left coffee in the pot with the wine...

    Following the play, we headed briefly over to a friend of Anne's who was participating in an Adventskalendar party. The idea is that a neighborhood agrees on doing the party, and every night of Advent a different house hosts a gathering. Very low-key, just out in front of the house in the driveway/street, with glühwein and Kinderpunsch and perhaps some cookies. So we stood out in the bitter cold for half an hour or so, drinking glühwein and talking to people, while children ran pell-mell all around us. There were even chestnuts roasting (on a barbecue though. Rats.)! Alas, they always tasted better in my head. Then, full and freezing, we headed home.

     And here I am! The weekend holds not a lot of excitement--babysitting both Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday morning my choir is singing for mass at Alterpeter, the big church in the city center, and there's a caroling afternoon at the American church, so should be fairly relaxing! And then Monday Nate flies in from Sofia for two weeks, my family departs for Ireland on Wednesday, and Christmas joy really begins!


1 comment:

  1. Oh you always make me chuckle!! LOVE all your descriptions -- the food, the kiddos' behaviors, the activities. I read this with a BIG smile on my face! Merry Christmas!