Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 29 November 2015

First Sunday in Advent

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
Yesterday I succumbed at the last minute - I bought an Adventskranz. 
It was rainy and dark, and actually I wanted to buy a pot of Helleborus niger, Christmas roses, though against my better judgement: they grew formidable in my garden-flowerbeds, but on the balcony they always were a disappointment, ever.
But then the price was very high and the quality low, so I abstained and, maybe as a "displacement activity" (as birds do when they don't get what they want - then they do "Now for Something Completely Different"), I bought the Advent wreath.
In former times - when we still lived in Hildesheim and our son was a schoolboy - I often wreathed myself - I loved the smell, hated the sticky resin and pricked fingers, and believed that it was fresher than the bought ones. (Though that was easy - bought ones shed their needles when you look at them. I think that nimble Chinese hands wreathe them in mid-July).
Last year I had bought a brass candlestand with four tealight holders and a smart little modern brass Christmas tree in the middle. That should be enough, I thought. For the heart (= Kitsch) my Christmas cup and a little musical clock should do.
I thought.
Long ago I had decided against a fake wreath - though, for the first time in my life this year I saw some utterly convincing ones. If I want a wreath - and not for religious but only decorative reasons - I want the full monty, meaning: especially the smell.
On the balcony, a long fake fir garland beautifies the balcony trellis - together with little lights - and even I, being VERY scrupulous about form and colour, cannot tell the difference till I touch it.  
                  The "real" Advent wreath shed spitefully a few needles onto our doormat when I brought it in. And as soon as the mist of the rainy dark night had evaporated from its needles, it looked instantly like all the other disappointments of the years before.
I thought about principles.
Will I "preserve" them? As 'preserve' in marmelade?
Or will I shed them on the floor, like needles, next year?
Ad-vent of total liberation?

Now light your first candle, become tranquil, nibble a few almonds and inhale the nice smell of fir needles.
I wish all of you a festive and contemplative season! Britta  XXX 


  1. Advent was not part of our celebration as a child. When my oldest daughter married, her husband introducted advent to keep the children entertained on the run up to Christmas. So what, I thought, silly chocolate coins behind little paper doors. And the children ate them all in the first week.
    One summer my friend in Wisconsin asked me to help her with her god daughter's advent calendar. It was an old calendar, from her school days in Switzerland. I helped repair it, and shop for gifts. What a concept! Small gifts tied to all the days of advent. Ann would note what she selected for each day to be prepared for the squeals when her god daughter called from Ohio. Another summer I helped her make two more for her nieces. These little girls returned their calendar every year during their summer visit, and took the refreshed one back home at their Thanksgiving visit. Their anticipation was a pleasure.
    I like advent. Though I don't participate, except vicariously, I enjoy understanding it. I hope your pine needles smell wonderful for all the season!

  2. That was new to me, Joanne - so Germany doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, America not Advent.
    In Europe Christians celebrate "tempus ante natale Domini" (that's why the children should not eat all chocolate coins in the first week :-)
    The Adventskranz was invented for Northern Germany in 1839 by the theologican Wichern - he created it for poor children in Hamburg, who always asked him when Christmas would be. First he took a cartwheel and put 20 little white and four big red candles on it. 100 years later the Catholics had it too.
    Nowadays there are many symbolic interpretations for the Light, the evergreen firs/pine etc.
    I made a big fault with creating a beautiful cross stitch advents calendar for our son - in the beginning, it was fun and I easily found little things to hang onto it - till last year it was quite difficult/costly to find something that a young adult loves too. This year I had a bright idea :-)
    So: the idea of Advent is wonderful - the time nearing is thus well presented - but a sweet glittery calendar will do!

  3. I am in favor of traditions that create warm memories. The little girls returning their Advent calendars for refurbishing is something they will always remember fondly and hopefully continue the tradition with the little ones when they are grown. I like your tale of the beginning of the Advent tradition too. I had not heard it before. I am now feeling warm and happy from this post and the comments.

    1. Yes, Emma, I think that traditions and rituals are very important. And the idea of advent is a beautiful one (rhough - as n other parts of our life - commerce is trying to occupy it). I am fascinated of the slow coming nearer of a feast made visible.

  4. We HAVE to have a real tree and a real wreath for the front door Britta ..... I cannot and will not waver { well, not yet anyway !!! } .... we mustn't let our standards drop Britta !!!!!! XXXX

    1. I would have been disappointed if you hadn't the real thing, Jackie - the authentic thing is the real one, and who cares about a few needles? Standards are important - I utterly agree - and to give in would be sloth. (Though, on the balcony, I made a compromise - but then (except one in a lantern) I do not have real but electric candles, and that I can live with :-)

  5. I always used to buy a small christmas tree with roots every year because they don't drop their needles, and then dear husband would plant them in the garden. We now have a small forest of christmas trees, some have grown as high as 30feet high. Obviously I had to abandon this idea - there is a limit as to how many you want growing in your garden. All is not lost though as I can decorate them with outside lights.

    1. The living Christmas trees are a good idea (to a certain extent :-) , and outside decoration is lovely (too many firs/pines make the garden shady and the soil acid, but you know that of course, and I think you have a quite big garden, so you have space for a few Christmas trees.
      Can you believe that we found out that some mongers in Germany sold little Christmas trees in pots - and then, surprise, surprise! - they were cut and only their stem stuck in the earth?

  6. Perhaps making them by hand is the best way, if there is time. It's not part of our tradition to have an advent wreath, but decorating the Christmas tree and making the cake or pudding can be a ritual which matters as much as the finished product.

  7. Perhaps making them by hand is the best way, if there is time. It's not part of our tradition to have an advent wreath, but decorating the Christmas tree and making the cake or pudding can be a ritual which matters as much as the finished product.

  8. Dear Jenny, I agree that doing things oneself most often brings more satisfaction - and I thought about the fact, why I did it much more when our son lived at home (and of course I had not more time to spend than now, on the contrary) and why not now? Thus I decided to paint my Christmas cards - as I enjoy painting.
    It was new to me that not only in America but also in England the tradition of Advents wreath is unknown - see the blog auf "The Magical Christmas Wreath" at the blog-roll here? I falsely deduced that it is the same thing - now I see that such a wreath is more for decorating doors.

  9. Dear Brigitta, Your Adventskranz is beautiful and cheerful. I do not have one because I always confuse kranz and krone and might try to wear it on my head. All my best wishes to you in this happy season.

  10. Thank you, Geo., also for your good wishes, which are especially welcome at the moment. The wreath it is quite simple (normally we decorate with red candles, red bows and little gold stars). But - as life - nothing is perfect, and this is better than nothing.
    On 31st December you might - if by chance you are in Sweden - wear a Lichter-Krone, as the Holy Lucia did - and many Swedes do now.

  11. I never understood advent calendars, we didn't have them with things like chocolates, they would have been considered by the nuns.

    1. Oh Rachel, I just assumed that - in my experience they often look for "bad things" in behaviour and entertainment. Though I have to say that always I was choosen to mentor the Catholic Schools for student's career guiding - and I loved those schools very much. As husband is Catholic - and I am a lack-a-daisy protestant (though I prefer Taoist) - I choose to let son be baptized Catholic, and am very, very content with my choice. Despite from their sex-views, which I ignore, they have something I like (and if it were only the aesthetic more convincing surroundings). .