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  1. Germany's gift to Christmas # 1
    Stephie_80

    Germany's gift to Christmas

    Germany's gift to Christmas
    From strudel to sausage, Old World tradition inspires holiday tables
    By Ellen Sweets
    Denver Post Staff Writer

    While we're busy wishing one and all "happy holidays," how's about we stop to say, "Thank you, Germany," for advent calendars, the Christmas tree, gingerbread cookies, candy canes, gingerbread houses, apple strudel, sauerkraut, red cabbage, rouladen, hassenpfeffer (a rabbit dish still more traditional at Christmas there than here) and brats.

    Sausages, not children.

    As crazed as many get in preparation for the big day, it was not always so. Long ago and far away there was a time when Christmas belonged to children; gifts were handmade and given from the heart, not assigned to purchase on plastic; trees didn't go up until Christmas Eve, and a Christmas dinner of roasted goose was as traditional as turkey on November's final Thursday.

    Decorating and lighting a Christmas tree began in pre-Christian Germany. The practice evolved to include cookies, fruit and eventually, candles.

    Denverites Al Fink, who has a Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics, and his wife, Kathleen Lance, lived in Germany and traveled throughout the country absorbing regional differences and similarities.

    "Germans have candlelit Christmas trees - small ones on little stamped tin plates," Fink says. "The candles are placed on outer branches, and lighting them makes the tree so special. People think it's gonna be the Chicago fire all over again, but it's not. It isn't like flipping a switch and watching a bunch of lights go on.

    "German Christmas traditions almost always include roasted goose, poached carp and baked goods," he says. "Germans also have marzipan molded into exquisite shapes, and something I've perpetuated: feuerzangenbowle."

    For the uninitiated, feuerzangenbowle is a warmed liquid holiday concoction that translates roughly into "flaming fire tongs punch." Its ingredients explain why - cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, oranges, lemons, cloves, rum and wine.

    Lance, a telecommunications company project manager, is partial to baking.

    "I loved doing some of the classics, such as stollen, lebkuchen (a gingerbread cake, from Nuremberg), and strudel, which is eaten year-round, but also at Christmas," she says. "Many of the recipes are closely guarded secrets handed down from generation to generation.

    "There are a couple of cookies, pfeffernusse (a spicy cookie) and zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) that I see recipes all over for, although different families have different traditions. The big deal is the lighting of candles on the tree on Christmas Eve."

    Sandra Boog, co-owner of Cafe Berlin, is in fact from Berlin and serves the food she grew up with. "There is no German fusion here," she says. "Our Christmas dinner was traditional German. Although the children have Dec., 6, St. Nicholas Day, the holiday itself starts on the 24th around six o'clock.

    "My family served very simple food on Christmas Eve so that you can sit and celebrate - maybe sausages and cold potato salad. Then on the 25th, we'd have roasted goose, red cabbage and potato dumplings. Usually everyone is so full, we don't have room for dessert. But we might have a strudel, like the one we make here, or there might be stollen, which is a very traditional German bread."

    Customs migrated here

    Stollen can be traced to before the Romans occupied parts of Germany. Special breads rich in dried or preserved fruit were prepared for the winter solstice, says Betsy Oppenneer, whose recipe for stollen will appear on a Food Network episode Saturday devoted to holiday breads.

    Christollen (Christ's stollen), has been traced to 15th-century Dresden. It was made from flour, oats and water, as required by church doctrine, but without butter and milk, it was tasteless. Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht asked the pope to lift the ban on butter and milk during Advent, resulting in the "butter letter" allowing that milk and butter could be used - for a small fee.

    Originally stollen was called striezel or struzel, which referred to a braided shape - a large oval folded in half with tapered ends - and is said to represent the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothing.

    About 1560, it became custom for Dresden's bakers to give the ruler of Saxony two 36-pound stollens as a Christmas gift. It took eight master bakers and eight journeymen to carry the bread to the palace.

    This continued for



    almost 200 hundred years, until 1730, when Augustus the Strong, the electoral prince of Saxony and the king of Poland, asked the Baker's Guild of Dresden to bake a giant stollen. The 1.8-ton loaf was a true showpiece and fed more than 24,000 guests. To commemorate the event, a Stollenfest is held each December in Dresden.

    This sort of historic detail surrounds many German traditions that have crossed the ocean and taken up residence in American homes.

    The bread for the present-day Stollenfest weighs 2 tons and measures about 4 yards long. Each year, the stollen is paraded through the market square, then sliced and sold to the public, with the proceeds supporting charities. Although there is a basic recipe for making the original Dresden Christollen, each master baker, each village and each home has its own secret recipe passed down from one generation to the next.

    Savoring 60 sausages

    Sweets aren't the only foods shared through generations.

    Eric Gutknecht and his father are continuing a tradition started by the Swiss family that sold Continental Sausage to them in 1982. Gutknecht is a Swiss-trained master butcher who, with his father, makes nitrite-free sausages for wholesale, retail and online sale (continentalsausage.com).

    "We make about 60 varieties of sausage to sell here, and because of Colorado Springs, we do a lot of business there," he says. "A lot of military personnel have lived or traveled in Germany, and they want the sausages they ate overseas."

    Gutknecht says culinary traditions vary from region to region but that a typical Swiss Christmas Eve meal for his family consists of a beef rouladen or a fondue chinois (in which chicken or beef stock replaces hot oil. The meat is cooked in this stock and dipped in sauces, similar to the Japanese shabu shabu).

    "Occasionally we might have ham, but not very often," he says. "For us it is more or less a day off. Santa Claus comes on Christmas Eve, when friends and family gather. We have dinner and maybe stollen."

    The list seems never-ending.

    Marzipan - the exquisite candy so entrenched in German culture that there are laws that stipulate a formulation of two parts ground almonds to one part sugar - can be flavored only with rosewater.

    Nutcrackers, which date to 16th- and 17th-century Germany, Switzerland, France, England and Tyrolean northern Italy, were given as keepsakes to bring good luck and protect the home. And who hasn't seen the ballet inspired by this little wooden appliance? A fierce protector, the nutcracker is considered a traditional messenger of good luck and goodwill.

    Which, after all, is what the season is about, whether here or there.

    Staff writer Ellen Sweets can be reached at 303-820-1284 or esweets@denverpost.com.

    http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_3303762

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  3. Germany's gift to Christmas # 2
    thecivickid
    Ok, I'am very thankful for each and everyone of those things, but I have one complaint, spending yet another Christmas here in Germany, I look forward to the Kriskindlemarkts (I can't spell) and the 6th of December, the 3 days of Christmas not just 2 like in the states, but don't you think its time that they retired the Wham! song!!!! I mean it might have been cool like 20 years ago, but its still holding strong in Germany, I myself don't like George Michael that much, but I do get a kick out of hearing my wife sing it EVERY SINGLE TIME IT COMES ON!

  4. Germany's gift to Christmas # 3
    garfieldshome
    @thecivickid
    my husband says exactly the same thing and we had the discussion a few days ago. and i don't know why they play it. maybe there isn't a new version out yet?

  5. Germany's gift to Christmas # 4
    Stephie_80
    My husband hates the song too. I still like it, kinda belongs to Christmas for me. And there are some Dance Versions out, but I guess no replacement has been found yet...

  6. Germany's gift to Christmas # 5
    thecivickid
    I came to a comprimise with my wife, there is nothing wrong with being nostalgic, and thats seems to hold true here in Germany, I mean just last week I saw a show on RTL or Proseiben called ABBA Mania. As long as my wife is happy I think I can stand Wham! for a little while at least.

  7. Germany's gift to Christmas # 6
    LION1962
    Zitat Zitat von thecivickid
    Ok, I'am very thankful for each and everyone of those things, but I have one complaint, spending yet another Christmas here in Germany, I look forward to the Kriskindlemarkts (I can't spell) and the 6th of December, the 3 days of Christmas not just 2 like in the states, but don't you think its time that they retired the Wham! song!!!! I mean it might have been cool like 20 years ago, but its still holding strong in Germany, I myself don't like George Michael that much, but I do get a kick out of hearing my wife sing it EVERY SINGLE TIME IT COMES ON!
    You spell "Christkindlesmarkt" .

    I dont like George Michael too. I like only the x-mas song with Wham.

    Thats all.

    TTYL.

    Markus.

  8. Germany's gift to Christmas # 7
    thecivickid
    Holy hell, I was way off on the spelling! I need to study more for sure.

  9. Germany's gift to Christmas # 8
    rabiene
    I LOVE the song. It belongs for christmas to me.
    BTW I'm German and a woman.

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