Friday, December 28, 2007
Instructions for a Feuerzangenbowle party: 1) make large bowl of punch from dry, red wine, cinnamon sticks, cloves, lemon, and orange peels 2) heat up punch over flame 3) extinguish flame with lid from a pot to avoid melting table, measure out smaller amount of kerosene, and relight 4) soak large cone of processed sugar with 108 proof rum and place on slotted metal platform over punchbowl 4) ignite rummed up sugar with a match and admire ensuing flames 5) serve punch to your friends and don't be stingy 6) watch movie Die Feuerzangenbowle 7) wake up following morning with headache.
Katie and I completed our first Feuerzangenbowle party at our friends' apartment in early December. Seven of us assembled around the living room table and cheered Marcus on as he ceremoniously prepared the punch and ladled it out. After a few cups of the fiery brew, I felt an irresistable desire to know more about the German electoral system, which Fabian kindly detailed for me. Once we exhausted the subject it was time to watch the movie. Die Feuerzangenbowle is a black-and-white about a fictitious author Dr. Pfeiffer who poses as teenage high schooler to prank teachers and perform other zany hijinks. The movie is alarmingly lighthearted for having been made in Germany in 1944, but one should never underestimate mankind's tendency toward escapism. After the movie and punch were finished we hopped on our bikes and sped home. Let me tell you, the two things that you want the most after a Feuerzangenbowle party are a large glass of water and your bed. Better keep a couple of advil on the nightstand too. Just in case.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Alright, I know what you are thinking right now but let's not rush to judgement. This is merely a picture of Sinterklaas and his two helpers known as Zwarte Pieten. That is, the Dutch representations of Santa Claus and Black Pete. Oh yeah, and Katie. She is playing herself in this picture, both figuratively and literally.
Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by boat from his home in Spain (you might remember that the Dutch were under Spanish rule in earlier times). To all of you scoffers: his priestly robe and mitre are a nod to the original St. Nicholas who was a Greek bishop in Turkey in the 3rd Century. Same as usual, he comes and brings gifts to good children. As for the mischievous Black Petes, they are either slaves, Moors, devils, or simply covered in soot. Apologists have written plenty about these controversial characters, but I have neither the knowledge nor the desire to do so in this blahg.
The implications and connotations of the accompanying picture do not necessarily represent the views of The Transatlantic Monthly, its writers, or its parent company Viacom. Just kidding we're not owned by Viacom.....yet. It is a priceless picture though.
Beginning in late November and running up until December 23rd, the Christmas Markets are the best way to pass an hour or an afternoon or even a whole day on the weekends. In every town square, vendors set up wooden shacks and sell ornaments, clothes, candles, food and mulled wine. Katie and I hit up Bonn Zentrum, Bad Godesberg, Berlin, and Siegburg. Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is the name of the game and now every flat surface in our apartment is occupied by commemorative mugs from each village's market. Drop by our place and I will give you one. Seriously.
The Weihnacht Markt in Siegburg is medieval themed, which automatically bumps up the fun factor by 2. Instead of gluhwein we drank hot mead out of ceramic goblets and watched a burly blacksmith pound steel into rustic ten-penny nails. Maybe in the distant future we are all going to stand around sipping Cosmopolitans and watch an old, weathered robot assemble microprocessors. I can't wait.
Should you ever find yourself overseas for important American holidays, do not worry about missing out. Harvest festivals are celebrated on just about every corner of the globe, Germany included, and by the end of November we had observed Thanksgiving to the point of overindulgence. With all due respect to our avian guest of honor, we gobbled our way through five fantastic meals - several kilos of turkey, a cement mixer's worth of mashed potatoes, and enough pinot noir to buoy an aircraft carrier. Now I can see why the Pilgrims wore buckles around their hats instead of their waists. Also, the Law of Conservation of Gender Roles still applies here, as you can note from the pictures. Many thanks to our generous hosts: Nat and Jen, Lori and Ralph, the APC Women's Bible Study Group, the Fellowship Committee, and ourselves (including Tanya, Derick and Amanda).