Yesterday afternoon Oliver and I rolled back into town, officially ending our winter holidays. We started the whole thing off over two weeks by spending a long weekend in Bremen for Christmas with Oliver’s parents, his sister and her husband. Oliver’s parents throw a Christmas/wedding anniversary party every year on the 23rd in their basement bar. This fully catered bash always sets the tone for the rest of the weekend, one of excessive eating and drinking. More so this year because Oliver discovered a new sushi restaurant in Bremen (bring up the total in town to three) that was good and cheap and impulsively ordered a case of rolls and sashimi.
As Germans really haven’t fully embraced either the sushi phenomenon or the concept of fingerfood, I was in heaven, burdoned with the awesome responsibility of not letting any of it go to waste. Let me re-emphasize the amount: a case, meaning a big box holding about twelve trays of 30 rolls each, plus 2 boxes of sashimi. It was awesome. It took all weekend. Amazingly I didn’t gain weight this holiday season. Go figure. (This is Mother Nature’s way of making up for what she did to me last year, the bitch.)
I was so involved in finishing this task that I neglected to take any photos to prove it really happened. But I did take some photos of other things, including:
Emma, the family dog, doing her morning wake-up routine, which entails taking her gooey squeaky toy into the bed of a sleeping person (in this case Oliver, the morning after the big party, a little worse for wear and reluctant to rise) and squeaking the toy by ramming it onto their heads. This usually works pretty well, but if not she will follow it up with deep ear tongue kissing, a sure-fire method every time.
(These days I blend in a bit more thanks to my highlights, for the record I’m the one in the striped skirt.)
Over here we do Christmas on the eve rather than the day. Oliver’s parents put up the tree in the afternoon, during which time we ‘kids’ are banished from the living room and forbidden to see the tree. Once everything is ready, everyone gets dressed up and meets in the bar in the basement for a cocktail. Oliver’s parents will summon us upstairs where we get our first glimpse of the tree, all lit up by candlelight, with music playing. Claus, Oliver’s dad, gives everyone a flute of champagne and we have a toast, during which Gerlinde, Oliver’s mother, always bursts into tears. Then we chat, drink and get around to opening all the presents before dinner.
When I tell my mom about the tree she always has to say, “now you have a bucket of water or something around right?”, and I always tell her yes. But this isn’t true, there never has been because Gerlinde feels it interferes with the look of the evening. There is a blanket nearby but as the tree is fresh and the candles are never just left burning, there’s never been a problem. Something else did catch on fire this year, but Oliver put it out with a glass of champagne.
Christmas day is extremely mellow. After two days of parties, eating off the same buffet (still laid out in a cool room in the basement) we’re all ready for a change. One of the benefits of Claus working in the Middle East is being close to Iran, where some of the best caviar comes from and as he’s close to the source it’s economically feasible to serve it as dinner to a group of six along with champagne, toast, creme fresh, and finely chopped egg and onion.
Aside: I had this great line I used in college when offered ‘party favors’ from well-funded sorority girls with whom I wanted to remain in good graces. I’d tell them that I’d “never try either cocaine or caviar because even if I liked it I could never afford it“, so why torture myself? This always worked really well with them and even made some a little embarassed at having flaunted forbidden goods at the peasant. Now half of my cute line is gone, I loved the caviar.
Emma however is better off never knowing what she’s missing, so the begging did no good.
Ironically there are real candles on the tree but no flames in the fire… not even a fireplace for Santa to come through.
For the Hennig family this last issue is moot because they weren’t visited by Santa as kids but by a “Weihnachtsmann” (or Christmas Man in English). One of the main discussions people seem to have each year is whether they are from the “Weihnachtsmann” or “Christkind” side of Germany. The Christkind, according to Oliver, is not Jesus, he’s not sure who he is really, just the guy who brings gifts. Santa is in the picture too, but only because Hollywood has made so many movies about it and Coke did that ad. I don’t know anyone who feels they’ve actually been visited by him.
Santa plays an interesting decoration role over here. Rather than take form in a plastic illuminated statue on the roof or front lawns of homes he always hangs from a rope or laddder along the sides of buildings. His face is always hidden, all you ever see is a guy in a red suit with a bag, dangling. Santa has stolen his way into German culture, in the form of a cat burglar.
And that was Christmas. We all flew back the following Monday afternoon and got one last present: a bump up to business class courtesy of a colleague of Oliver’s sister who happened to be working that flight. He gifted us with leg room, a nice little Tuscon style lunch (economy didn’t get anything) and some champagne and cookies and chocolates to take home.
All in all a pretty merry Christmas, and a great ski vacation in Austria followed but that’s more than enough for right now…
It is nice to be home.