Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas German Style

Today was the annual Christmas bazaar at the German embassy a few (big) blocks from where I live. I read in a magazine that it is a very popular event and the article advised people to bundle up as they'd have to wait outside for a while to get in!

It started at 11am so I started off just before 10:40am, got on a bus for two stops. But when my bus approached the bus stop, across Dongzhimen Wai Daijie 10 minutes later, there was a massive line snaking down the block where the German embassy was and overflowing onto the next one!

So I stood at the back of the line where the European Union embassy was, and many people lined up behind me. Most of the people were German, as I heard many speaking German, or with Chinese people who could speak German, along with some Canadians and Americans.

After 11am the line slowly started moving and we inched forward every 30 seconds or so -- but literally inching. By the time I arrived at the entrance, it was 11:50am -- an hour waiting to get in.

Everyone had to show their passport and then get a quick sweep of a wand by security guards, open our bags and then were basically allowed in.

There were little booths set up in the courtyard, many selling things like gingerbread cookies and houses, stollen, sausages, pretzels, apple cider, beer, champagne, and a huge selection of cakes and pastries. People could eat hotdogs, bratwurst with potato salad, or roast pig.

But not all were edible -- there were also Christmas cards for sale, advent calendars (OK those involve chocolate), Christmas candles decorated with fir and pine, small wreaths, and jewelry.

Some people played O Tannenbaum on the trumpet, and later a choir in red complete with Santa Claus sang a few Christmas carols in German.

It was a really festive atmosphere, everyone keeping warm drinking cider, children decorating gingerbread cookies, or waving their long balloon swords around.

What was perhaps most interesting was a different kind of lost in translation, as most of the signs or descriptions of products were in German than Chinese and even then it was hard to decipher what exactly they were.

Nevertheless, it was the perfect event for families with kids and people catching up with friends. Isn't that what Christmas is about, anyway?

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