The tree is not up yet. But that is no cause to stress. It’s rather amusing though to see others break out in a cold sweat as they rush around the city with blank stares on their faces. What is not amusing however is to be surrounded by so much aggressiveness. Whatever happened to the joyous spirit of Christmas?
It’s not like Christmas sneaks up on us surprisingly? But each year you would think for some people it creeps up from nowhere to play a sneaky joke on them. And off they all run as if they were stung by a swarm of Christmas hornets. Yesterday Soeren and I were at the large DIY store and the parking lot was fairly full, people were running around loading their cars with Christmas trees, couples were shouting at each other and babies were crying. Chaos!
In contrast, the bakery in the store was welcoming, tranquil and warming, filling the air with the perfume of sugar and spice. We bought ourselves flaky apple puff pastries and some hot chocolate and watched as the shoppers passed by, an aura of hectic surrounding them. We did not allow it to grip us, discussing what we still needed to get on our list. It’s important for me to create these islands of serenity, especially when it is easy to get caught up in the craziness at this time of year.
We walked back out onto the parking lot, oblivious to the cold and noise, our arms hugging boxes of baubles, tinsel and candles. We laughed and joked as we packed the boot of the car and as I turned around my eye made contact with a lady rushing across the lot tugging a child behind her. For some reason she slowed for just a moment as she passed us, I smiled at her and Soeren greeted them with a cheerful “Frohliche Weihnachten!” The frown she wore on her face dissolved and instead her lips turned upwards into a beaming smile as she and her child wished us the same.
Getting into the car I leaned forward to take one last look as they sauntered into the store. I smiled to myself as I saw her make a stop at the bakery, as others rushed passed cramming their cars with Christmas trees.
No, we do not even have our tree yet! But we are fairly easy about it. You see, Christmas comes every year and instead of going to a store to buy our tree, we go with the forest ranger into the forest, where a tree school grows a variety of trees for Christmas. We select our tree, always a majestic Nordman Fir Christmas tree and cut it down ourselves. The ranger simply puts a net over it and helps us load it in the car. Not only is this method cheaper but we usually get the freshest trees that lasts well into the beginning of January.
We usually do this on the 23rd, as in Germany trees are rarely put up earlier, some will put their trees up on the 4th Advent, but Tom’s family tradition has always been to put the tree up on the Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition we have taken over. The day before Christmas Eve we usually spend in the forest soaking up the crisp cool winter air and the musky aromas of pine, fir and earth. I will often pack a flask of hot chocolate and a small box of homemade cookies. Those islands of serenity are always welcomed.
Christmas cookies - they come in so many varieties and we love our cookies so much here. Each year I begin baking towards the end of November. There are gifts to give, Christmas parties to attend or simply treating ourselves to a moment of tranquility and cookies fit every occasion so perfectly.
Last year I treated you to a nice selection of Hazelnut Maripan Macaroon, Jam Drops with Morello Cherry and Cognac Preserve and German Spitzbuben. This year I invite you to enjoy in a selection of Christmas cookies that are extremely popular at this time of year here in Germany.
Chocolate Brushed Lebkuchen
Lebkuchen cookies are the German icons when it comes to Christmas baking. Each region in Germany offers their own traditional variety and each one tastes divine. Maybe one of the reasons they are so cherished is because the warming medley of spices in the Lebkuchen spice mix, specifically used for Lebkuchen, emit a comforting and cosy atmosphere as the aromas of cinnamon, cardamom, coriander perfume the air.
In my version I use raw marzipan to give it a lovely nutty taste and you will see that I only use candied lemon peel to add a slight sweet tangy flavor to the cookie.
Almond and Peanut Florentines
Because these sweet caramelized nutty cookies are a favorite of ours all year round they are almost always a part of our Christmas baking. Originally from Italy, Florentine cookies have found great popularity in Germany. Traditonally made with candied cherries, honey and almonds in my version I use homemade candied peel and add some peanuts too. These cookies could not be easier to make.
Hazelnut Gianduia Spritz Cookies
Another classic Christmas cookie, Spritz cookies cannot be absent from the German cookie tray! Basically, a type of short crust pastry, the dough of the spritz cookies is piped from a piping bag into the desired shapes and is decadent dipped in chocolate. This year I continued on the path of decadence with my spritz cookies and made a heavenly gianduia chocolate filling to sandwich between two spritz cookies. Why not? It’s Christmas after all.
You’ll be finding yourself caught with your hand in the cookie jar quite often with these varieties of cookies. Spicy, sweet, nutty and decadent all the specifications for a good Christmas cookie! For more Christmas cookie ideas I have the cookie jar filled with crispy Almond and Pink Praline Spekulatius, Cinnamon Stars, Marzipan Almond Kipferl, and Lebkuchen Spice Macarons with Quince Jam and Candied Ginger. I am sure you will find the right cookie for your island of tranquility this Christmas.
I’d like to wish everyone celebrating a very fond Merry Christmas. Hope you enjoy this time with your family and loved ones. Eat, drink, love and be merry capaciously! And remember a cookie helps take away that stress … in most situations.
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