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Letter: A memorable Christmas in Germany

The month of December has been busy! I continued with ballroom dancing, and I had my first orchestra concert. I also did a lot of sightseeing this month.

I visited Nuremberg with my host family. Nuremberg is a bigger city and is about an hour and a half away by train. We went shopping and visited a Christmas market. Germany has a lot of Christmas markets, and I really enjoyed seeing them. When we were there I saw people from a variety of different countries and I could hear many different languages, including a lot of English. At the Christmas market, there were booths where you could find all different kinds of items. There were homemade Christmas tree ornaments, nativity scenes, hand-blown glass, nutcrackers and other Christmas goods. There was also so much food to choose from, including classic German food and tasty treats of other cultures. One of my favorite snacks from the Christmas market was Mandels, which are almonds covered in sugar and cinnamon, and are extra delicious when warmed up. I also enjoyed drinking Kinderpunsch and Glühwein to warm up on cold days.

I had the opportunity to travel to Vienna, Austria with the Zanzingers over a long weekend. When we arrived we went to Madame Tussauds, which was interesting. The next day we went to a palace, which was fascinating to see where royalty lived and learn about the history of their lives. We also went to another museum focused on Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was also known as “Sisi” and was beloved by the people. The last day we took some bus tours around the city, and we went to another Christmas market. I had a really good time with my host family in Vienna, and I love Austria.

This year I spent my first Christmas away from home. It was a little weird to be away from home, and it didn’t feel like a typical Christmas because there was no snow and the weather was warm. Christmas in Germany is a little different than Christmas in America. Christmas Day is celebrated on Dec. 24, the 25th is called First Christmas Day and the 26th is called Second Christmas Day. My celebrations began on Dec. 23 because it was my host dad Ralph’s birthday. He is a twin, so we went to a restaurant with his entire side of the family and celebrated with eating and talking. That night, my host mom Sandra’s family came to celebrate with us. On the 24th we went to church, then more family came and we had a nice supper, sang Christmas songs, opened gifts and conversed. I spent the 25th with my German Grandma Elfriede and her husband, Wolfgang, and their family. We went to their daughter’s house, ate lunch, played with her four young grandchildren, and later we went to a movie to end the day. On the 26th Ralph’s parents came for lunch, and then my German Christmas was over. It was an amazing time with fun, fellowship and so much food!

On New Year’s Eve, I ate Raclettes with my family. A Raclette is a meal where you have a small container that you fill up with meat, vegetables and cheese; and then you put it on a special hot plate. It was very delicious. My host sisters and I painted some canvas. Traditionally on New Year’s Eve there are fireworks, so we went hiking to see them. Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so we couldn’t see anything. We went home and shot off our own fireworks at the house, which was fun. As I ended my year watching the explosion of colors, I am very thankful for everything I have experienced this year, and am very excited to see what’s in store for 2019!  Thank you to everyone who has made this student exchange possible!