Me, eating the first of many a Schokoapfel, Munich Christkindlmarkt, December 2008. Photo: Waldemar Rohloff. Ed note: yes, it’s a beret.
Over Thanksgiving, as I fielded irate messages from Germans about cilantro (they do hate it, but they object to me telling them so), I said a little prayer of un-Thanks for Christian Lindner, leader of the German Free Democratic Party and my now EX-boyfriend, who took his gold-plated Alexa-enabled smartball and absconded home from his country’s interminable coalition talks, celebrating in true Ayn Rand fanboy fashion with the literal smuggest Tweet in the world.
So, everyone’s favorite mom, Angela Merkel, wanted a new government by Christmas and she’s not gonna get one; all signs point to a resigned, grumbling renewal of the GroKo, or Grand Coalition, between Mutti and the Social Democrats. Except this week, their talks have stalled thanks to a kerfuffle over the EU’s continued use of Glyphosate, a possibly toxic (ed note: ehhhh) weed killer, because did I or did I not tell you that Germans really cared about their lawns?
And so, with extra-German-style ineffectuality the new Reason for the Season, the German-speaking world is gearing up for another set of Festtage (FEST-tah-guh), literally “party days,” and let me tell you when it comes to Christmas, or Weihnachten (VIE-nocht-un, literally “consecration night”) and New Year’s Eve (Silvester, pronounced just like the cat), these people do not fuck around.
There might seem to be little in common between Mutti, my shitty ex-boyfriend Lindner, my new boyfriend and definite Real German Hasnain Kazim, and this guy who won’t give up his farm no matter what. But for the next month or so, all of these people will be Christmassing Deutsch-style, and even I—an avowed lifelong Christmas hater whose selective Jewishness activates to full Jewishness in December just to undercut other people’s fucking cheer—am here for it.
Even if you don’t know much about Germans or Austrians, you probably know they’re obsessed with Christmas thanks in part to this:
And, oh yeah, this. And you’re right, they are—and the rest of the world owes shit like this to Germans, for better or worse, because they essentially invented the Christmas tree and are still, according to this recent infographic in Der Spiegel, so Tannenbaum-addicted that they have to shear all of Denmark every year to get their coniferous fix.
But even in their single-minded consecration-night fever, Germany and Austria are still—and again, I am the undisputed Christmas-hating authority on this—approximately one tenth as insufferable as your average American saccharine over-decorated suburban McMonstrosity and/or whatever people go to instead of a mall these days. There are innumerable reasons for superiority, but I have (as always) done years of painstaking research, by which I mean eating of street food instead of proper meals, to come up with the most salient of these reasons.
Probably I should give some lip service to the fact that Europeans in general don’t see the enjoyment or value in amassing debt by buying metric fuck-tons of cheap shit from China to make their kids forget about their divorce or whatever—or, for that matter, putting giant bows on top of cars to make their spouses forget they fucked the yoga instructor. The transactional nature of American Christmas, as a sort of perverted day of atonement, is as foreign to our friends over there as the idea of stampeding someone for a marked-down Xbox. Yes, Germans give and get Christmas presents, but not like us.
Does this mean that Germans put the Christus in Weihnachten where He belongs? Sort of. Most Germans attend church exactly twice per year, and one of those occasions is Christmas Eve (or whenever Christians go to Christmas-church; I don’t actually care).
But what really sets German Christmas apart from our own is that all of the energy and time and money that we put toward Mannheim Steamroller records and plastic, they put toward incredible kick-ass candy. Sickly-sweet chocolate Santas can go fuck themselves, because here is a photograph of what Austrians delightfully call a Zuckerstandl (TSOO-kur-STON-dul), or “Sugar Stand,” a mainstay of the omnipresent Christkindlmarkt (KRISST-kin-dull-MARKT) in Austria and Bavaria, or Weihnachtsmarkt in the rest of Germany:
Vienna Christkindlmarkt, 2006. Image: Public Domain.
If there is an edible thing, Germans will coat it in four kinds of chocolate at sell it from an aggressively festive stand in a painfully picturesque market at Christmastime—the best of these offerings is, of course, the Schokoapfel, or chocolate-covered apple, which is clearly healthy—and you can wash it down with the number-one reason that German Christmas is the best Christmas:
Wir werfen niemandem vor, dass er für seine Prinzipien einsteht. Wir tun es aber auch für unsere Haltung. Wir sind für Trendwenden gewählt worden. Sie waren nicht erreichbar. Es ist besser, nicht zu regieren, als falsch zu regieren. CL #jamaika #sondierung
— Christian Lindner (@c_lindner) November 19, 2017
HOT ALCOHOL CONSUMED AT GREAT VOLUME IN THE OUT-OF-DOORS. Of all the stands at all the Christmas markets—as well as the pop-up booths where a guy sells literal actual roasted chestnuts he literally actually roasts over an open fire in front of you for 1 Euro—the best one is obviously the one that sells Glühwein (GLUE-vine) or, my personal favorite and an Austrian mainstay, Punsch (pronounced like what you want to do to your racist uncle who thinks it should be illegal to say Happy Holidays).
Of course, all this festiveness has a downside, and that comes as a result of the aforementioned universality of the celebrations. It is considered a basic human right in the German-speaking world not to have to work between Christmas Eve-Eve and whenever the fires from the curbside New Year’s bottle rockets have stopped smoldering. This means that if you are an American dipshit who thinks she can run out of toilet paper on the 26th, you are sorely mistaken and should have amassed five lifetimes’ worth of staples in late November like everyone else.
If you want to be able to buy milk on Christmas—or, like the Schumans do every year, eat breakfast at Elmer’s Pancake House—you have to live in a country that treats Christmas like the holy amalgam of free-market Capitalism and selective piousness (and, apparently, nightmarescape) that American Jesus intended. Meanwhile, in Germany, our mom and Christian Lindner and everyone else will be stocking up on chocolate apples and setting off Class-B pyrotechnics in the middle of the street like civilized people—and perhaps they’ll have a functioning government by the time they all head to church again on Easter.