Cold enough for you?

As it is the new year and the temperatures are usually in the minus numbers for the majority of the day, I am actually reminded of the autumn day I was out walking the dog in one of the nearby fields.  Most of the harvesting had been done so we could see that a man and his dog was approaching us on the dirt road that cuts through the fields.  We stopped and chatted a few minutes as our dogs played.  We had met previously and found out that the man was not German, but French and had spent a year in Montréal, Canada on some navy commando exercise.  The Frenchman was bundled up in his down-jacket, scarf and touque (winter hat-for the non-Canadian readers), and he was surprised that I was out in the blowing wind in shorts and t-shirt.

The cold has certainly set in and has been around for a long time, apparently too long for most people.  I remember that the cold weather made for a quick night out on New Years Eve.  Having a visitors with young children over New Years I ran out of the house early to buy a bunch of fireworks for our party.  In Victoria, Canada, fireworks were deemed illegal, but occasionally you would see and hear a few explosions around Halloween and New Years.  The city would put on a summertime festival of music and fireworks – a large display by Canadian standards.

While I can tolerate the cold, it appears that Germans can out do me with their appreciation for fireworks.  Having stood in line to buy 3 or 4 set packages of fireworks and spending around 40 Euros my eyes grew wider and wider with the family ahead of me in the line at the ALDI. A mother pushed a buggy full of food, whilst the father and kids had a buggy full of fireworks.  The family ended with a bill close to 400 Euros, which is a huge feat in a store like ALDI that prides itself on very low prices.  (Think 8 Euros for a child’s snowsuit).

Despite my seemingly frugal purchase of firepower, we still had a good time, and I couldn’t get through all the stuff I had bought before the kids had had enough of the cold and the lack of sleep.  Every corner on the street had small crowds of people lighting rockets, whirling, flaming, banging fireworks.  The dog hated it, but we loved it!

While New Years seems a distant memory now, themes of new year still come up in conversations, especially with those who have never experienced a German New Years (Sylvester, as it is known here).  The last feature of most German New Year’s parties is the ever present “Same Procedure as Every Year” moment as people gather around a screen to watch “Dinner for One“.  A slapstick style comedy in English, which, I am growing more convinced, no English speakers have every heard of before.

While the cold continues to take us into the minus temperatures, life in German continues to feel warm and welcoming.  Just when I think I have learned it all…you really haven’t.

Traditions come and go

A New Years tradition that I started on my own whilst living in Victoria was to attend the Levy at Government House. I would wake up early and stand with masses of citizens to enter the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor General. Standing in the cold would be quickly forgotten once making ones way through the front entrace and feeling the heat from the roaring wood fire in a massive fireplace. Equally warm was the greetings from many city officials, local mayors and of course from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor and her husband as every person was personally greeted with a handshake. What always impressed me was that many people who lived on the street were often allowed in first and we’re treated with the same hospitality as anyone else.
There would be live music from the Navy band and the Canadian Scottish Regiment Band. Finger foods, tea or coffee, and small sweet cakes would be consumed by the masses while we milled about in the grand ballroom and looked out at the view of the ocean from the large veranda.
I was almost always the only one in the family that dared to participate in this tradition so I felt obliged to take a picture of the official dinning room with its polished silverware, candelabras and wooden table that was so shiny that you could easily make out reflections of the Queen and HRH Philip’s portraits which hung over one of the large fireplaces. I would take a few treats and a few napkins with the Royal insignia stamped onto them home with me so that I could share the experience with my own family.
After last night’s celebrations and no levy to attend, I went for a morning run with the dog. The only people I saw was one elderly woman walking her small dog and one young man stumbling home after what looked like a long party.
I don’t believe in making resolutions (as they usually end up broken within the week) but it was nice to try something new. Sadly, the family was not impressed with the ‘treat’ I brought back with me from this new year morning, but Skippy was much happier. 🙂

May this year be a good one for all.