Freitag, 6. Dezember 2013

More Hahaha than Hohoho - some things never change in Germany

Dinner for One  -  typical German humour
No matter how long you live in a foreign country there are always things about that land which you remain blissfully oblivious of. And some things that you'll find out only through kids. When I first came to Germany I thought the only difference between German and British Christmas is that while German Kinder start getting gifts as early as 6 November, St Nikolaus Day, poor British kids have to wait till Christmas morning. Until I discovered something even weirder: whole families crowding around the TV to watch Dinner for One every single New Year's Eve.

While Brits enjoy world TV premieres like "Skyfall" it seems strange that Germans get offered nothing better than an old black-and-white comedy – in English – which no one outside Germany has ever heard of. "Same procedure every year" is as well known in Germany as "Vorsprung durch Technik" in Britain.

Ironically we import lots of German Christmas culture – trees, carols, advent calendars, stollen cake and Glühwein. And of course Weihnachtsmärkte which are now so à la mode in Britain. What a surprise then to discover that although Father Christmas has plenty helpers he has a special sidekick in Germany who I had never heard of. Until today, Nikolaustag, when he suddenly banged on my front door, just as it was getting dark.

It’s Krampus
, of course. A beast-like creature guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of every child. Half Gruffalo, half Godzilla, the legendary Krampus isn’t a visitor you’d typically welcome with open arms. Dating back over 1000 years, his sole role is to make Santa bypass naughty kids, and drag them off to the underworld.

Just as surprising though is the German Father Christmas. Always at Krampus’ side, Nikolaus is the absolute antithesis of the pot-bellied, larger-than-life Anglo-American Santa. Tall and thin, with only a hint of a beard, and a crooked wooden stick, Nikolaus looks more like the village priest. And since we booked him through the local church I think that's who we might have got.

Matilda remained cool throughout –even when grumpy Krampus gave her a dark look, as if to say “Have you REALLY been good?” Maybe she guessed the game and was just playing along, knowing full well she was going to get the gift at the top of her wish list –binoculars

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