This Christmas, we reveled tradition, the German style. We left sunny Spain behind and headed North to spend the festive season with our dear friend Heiko in his village near Dresden, East Germany. Frozen lakes, withered trees and white powdery snow blanketing the rolling hills: it was just what we needed to get into the Christmas mood. After spending most of the year traveling through tropical countries, bumming on beaches and climbing hot volcanoes, this was actually somewhat different. A perfect setting for Christmas.
We arrived at Heiko’s home in the village of Langenwolmsdorf (1hr from Dresden) amidst the heavy snow, only to wake up the next day to a view of white-coated surroundings.
Waking up to the sun shining on our faces, and a huge spread of breakfast before us – salami, pate, cheese and nutella, we just couldn’t stop smiling. Heiko lives in a gorgeous townhouse, with part of it used as a Ferienwohnung, a B&B run by his own family. It’s got a gorgeous view, with the highly underrated but stunning National Park Sashcon Sweiz just 10 minutes away.
German Christmas Traditions
The days before Christmas were spent tasting typical Christmas delights, knocking on Heiko’s family doors and visiting the Christmas market. It was very exciting to be part of their celebrations, especially getting the chance to experience their traditions and practices.
Flaming up Glühwein
Glühwein – mulled wine boiled with cloves and sugar then dripped with rum – is definitely their favorite winter drink, especially at Christmas. One of their typical Christmas practices involves boiling a huge tub of mulled wine at home, placing a gigantic cone of sugar on top and then drenching it completely with rum before setting it on fire. Oh switch off the lights for the best effect. The result: gorgeous blue flames dancing in the darkness.
Christmas Cake: Stollen
The German Stollen is a loaf-shaped fruitcake littered with nuts, raisins, candied citrus peel, spices, and dusted with icing sugar. During the days leading up to Christmas, the Germans love to have it for tea break. The form of the stollen is said to represent Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. Dresden has the most famous Christmas stollen, as the first was made here. Here’s a recipe to make a simple German stollen.
Decorating with Traditional Handicraft
From nutcrackers, wooden smokers, wooden figures, straw ornaments to candle-lit pyramids, you’ll find them at every Christmas market.
We headed to the village’s famous handicraft store Ratags that had thousands of hand-crafted art pieces on display and even artists’ workshop where you could try your hand at crafting.
Visiting the Christmas Market
Germany’s Christmas markets are some of the best in the world, sprawling over city squares, with brightly lit giant Christmas trees and ferris wheels. We headed out to Dresden city’s Christmas market, the oldest in the whole of Germany. Rows and rows of stalls selling mulled wine and bratwurst (German sausages), handicraft and candy – you could spend hours lost in the labyrinth. Whether you’re looking for exquisite Welsh Gold or hand-made trinkets, you’re sure to find perfect Christmas gifts here in the market.
It’s the best place to make your child’s Christmas dreams come true, I couldn’t imagine any kid not screaming with excitement here.