I am very fortunate to have had many cultural and multi-national influences present in my childhood and throughout my life. As I discuss family traditions with my peers, especially around the holidays, I am always struck with how unique my family is by having so many different cultures represented and cherished.
Everything was associated with a nationality that stemmed from our ancestors, which we inherited: my Yaya would say this dish is from my mother from Greece, my Mom would say this breakfast food was taught to me by my Hungarian Nana, and so on. Dinner’s had stories, and traditions were associated from so and so from this country; the older I get and through this travel experience the more I am thankful for being ever so slightly influenced by these cultural influences in my childhood. This early influence has taken away fear of new cultural experiences and apprehension to try new national foods.
One national influence that was constantly present in my childhood was Germany. Not because we were German but because my Tia (aunt) lived and worked in Germany my whole life. She works for the U.S. military and has done so for eighteen years. My cousins were raised for most of their lives in Germany and are blessed with being multi-lingual, speaking English, Spanish, and almost fluent in German.
All while growing up I remember every winter receiving a box from Germany of German chocolate, cookies, and gifts. I looked forward to every year, eating the chocolate that was so much better than ours; in some years my Tia and cousins would visit and complain about how American Christmas isn’t real Christmas, and how the Germans invented Christmas and that is the only way to celebrate it. I remember everyone rolling their eyes because they always ranted about this but I always wanted to experience German Christmas. Well this year I did.
While I was not in Germany for Christmas day I was fortunate enough to travel to visit my Tia and cousin in Wiesbaden, Germany outside Frankfurt for the opening weekend of the Christmas markets. This was indeed a dream come true. I love Christmas, and after years of hearing how German Christmas was better, I had to see it. They were right, nothing compares to how Germany celebrates this global holiday. I went for a weekend and in that time went to three Christmas markets or Weihnachtsmarkete. I went to one in Wiesbaden, in Mainz, and in Rudesheim. Each at night, the only way to truly experience a Christmas market, with Gluhwein in hand, and each uniquely magical. I have never experienced Christmas like that; one thing I could not get over is how everything was real, which made my Tia laugh. Every structure made of wood, every tree a real tree, every wreath and intricate flower decoration real—this was hard for me to get over, someone who comes from a home who has a fake tree (to the horror of my Tia). My Tia told me that German Christmas markets are incomparable and every other Christmas market around the world is an imitation of these. She was not wrong, when I returned to London there were Christmas markets that opened in Southbank and Leicester Square and each of them looked very much like they were trying to imitate the ones I saw in Germany. She was right, no one celebrates Christmas like Germany, and I can’t help but feel sad I wont be in Germany to celebrate it. However, as a child growing up my whole life dreaming of seeing German Christmas it was incomparable to see it in reality.