Almost four weeks ago I saw the first signs. My local grocery store had created a display and it immediately caught my attention. At first I was simply shocked, confused, perplexed. What day is it? Where am I? However, my surprise quickly transformed into the obvious-yet-ever-pertinent realization that I'm in a foreign land and all my preconceived notions of how anything and everything works really have no relevance here. The more I think I know, the more I realize I don't know anything. The shock to which I am referring to, ladies and gentleman, is that in Germany, Christmas, or Weihnachten, starts in October.
Chocolate Santas, Christmas stollen, speculoos cookies, candy in the shape of angels and stars, and advent calendars have all been out for sale for weeks. I've even already had my first Glühwein (mulled wine) of the season as well as some roasted chestnuts. This was in October...
This is new. In the U.S. we have two spectacular holidays to congest our grocery stores before we get to Christmas; Halloween and Thanksgiving, respectively. First, we go through a costume and candy phase which then gives way to a canned pumpkin and cranberry phase. Fake blood and plastic jack o'lanterns are replaced by frozen turkeys and pie recipes. These are important symbols of the seasons, harbingers of The Holidays, and really fit into our (my) idea of the fall. Apparently I rely on this sequence of events to clue me in. It is just the way of things, or at least that's what I thought. How does one know what month it is without these traditional visual cues? What does one do when Santa has replaced the fake blood and the turkeys? Can you even imagine?
I know that Halloween and Thanksgiving are American holidays. And, obviously, I did not expect them to be well-represented here in Berlin. However, I also did not expect Christmas paraphernalia to be on display two months before the actual holiday comes to pass. It's certainly not the end of the world, I just felt that my audience needed to know as this is just one more thing on the list of many that is different here. It is a big deal? No. Do I think it's weird? Yes. Do I think many things are weird here? Yes. When I say weird do I just mean different than how my brain knows things to be? Yes. As an American trying to better integrate into German culture, this particular issue is not problematic. It's not a deal-breaker. I'm a rational human and can adapt to this. How much Germans smoke cigarettes or how they lock their bikes to bike stands, now that's another story (or another blog post). But, I suppose I can get used to this and begin to embrace the holiday spirit a bit earlier than usual. After all, from what I can tell it just involves enjoying Christmas cookies, roasted chestnuts, and Glühwein for a longer time and I think I can get behind that.