won't be long now
Little German children aren't going to get much sleep tonight. Sankt Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) makes his appearance later on, filling shoes, boots and stockings with sweet treats and small gifts. Also lovingly referred to around these parts as Nikolausi, Nikolaus is NOT the same guy as the Weihnachtsmann, the German equivalent of the North American Santa Claus. It's difficult keeping all these Christmas characters apart but what it really means is presents now and presents later. That can't be a bad thing, can it?
My big grown-up boys, still kids at heart, have already hung out their stockings on our humble fireplace.
Mr. M, who is off enjoying himself (NOT!) this evening at some jolly company festivities, will be getting a little something too.
And because a man needs more than cake on a special night like this, I may consider casting aside my ancient flannel Winnie-the-Pooh pyjamas
in favour of my Santa suit
Just call me Nikomausi!
Advent is in full swing in Germany and Sunday December 2 was the day to light the first candle on the Advent wreath or arrangement. I did a sort of free-form thing this year. Every Sunday until Christmas we'll light another candle until all four are burning.
And I don't know what I've been doing all week, but I still haven't gotten around to any serious holiday baking. That's not to say that we haven't been doing any serious holiday cookie eating, though. That's what supermarkets are for. They're full of Christmas cookies starting in October.
These are some of our favourites
The dark chocolate covered ones in the back are Lebkuchen, soft gingerbread in the shape of hearts, stars and pretzels.
The small white ones are Pfeffernüsse, literally 'pepper nuts', also a type of gingerbread. These ones are spiced with cloves, cinnamon and anise.
Next we have the Dominosteine which are really more of a confection than a cookie. I've cut one open so you can see the layers. The bottom layer is gingerbread, followed by a fruit jelly, usually cherry or apple. The top layer is persipan, similar to marzipan (almond paste) but made from apricot kernels. These are very sweet and sticky.
The large round cookies are also a type of gingerbread baked on Oblaten, thin wafers. The most famous ones come from Nuremberg. Traditionally they may contain nuts and candied peel are made with Pottasche (potassium carbonate) and Hirshhornsalz (ammonium bicarbonate), leavening agents used before the development of baking powder and baking soda. Lebkuchengewürz (gingerbread spice) consisting of varying amounts of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, is available in stores in case you want to try making your own.
In the centre we have the Spekulatius, a crisp cookie spiced with cinnamon. Mr. M would eat these all year round if he could - they're great with a cold glass of milk. The ones we buy have images stamped on them and I'm told they most often depict the story of St. Nicholas.
So if you're in Germany, be on the lookout for a guy in a red suit. You may just wake up to a nice suprise tomorrow morning.