Christmas craziness in Germany is best accentuated by the countess Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) that spread like tribbles in December. These outdoor markets are usually formed by long rows of stalls that sell candy, German crafts, and most importantly, hot, cinnamon-spiked wine that transforms shopping in the cold into a pleasant experience. Our city of Esslingen does something a bit different with their market. Part of it is very traditional, but the majority embraces a medieval theme. Hot mead is added to the menu, as well as smoked beer. Merchants offer traditional wares while roaming performers dressed in ye olde fashioned outfits help complete the illusion of living in the Middle Ages. It’s a bit like the Renaissance Festival meets Christmas. The video below begins in the standard Christmas market before moving on to the medieval section. Stayed tuned until the end to see one of the more impressive performances!
Animatronic figures have long since been a part of Christmas tradition. Usually there will be a cozy manger scene, where the animals might bob their heads or the like. There used to a be a Peter Pan display at the local mall when I was a kid. I always liked that one. You don’t see them quite as often these days, but I stumbled upon three in a window here in town. I’ll let the video speak for itself.
It’s a real shame I didn’t get footage before they changed the second scene. Seeing the kids wash their father was disturbing, but seeing them gyrate in bathrobes is almost as effective. I just noticed a baby passed out on the floor in that display. What’s that about?
Whenever I burn incense in the house, it makes Andreas think of Christmas, thanks to the smoking men that burst out of attic storage come December. Glorified incense burners, smoking men usually come in the form of wooden figurines, often with nods to various professions, or sometimes as animals. I have the dubious pleasure of owning an outhouse that smokes through the chimney. Most are classy, the one in the video below being my favourite. After six years, I too have begun to associate incense with Christmas. Well, that and my pot smoking days.
Has there been a gay Christmas movie before? None spring to mind, and I really liked the idea of cuddling up with Andreas on the couch, our recently decorated tree glowing to one side of the room while we watched Make the Yuletide Gay. The results were mixed.
Like most holiday films, Make the Yuletide Gay is a comedy. College student Gunn (played by Keith Jordan) returns home to his wacky parents who are, surprise-surprise, unaware that their son is gay. Not a problem. All he has to do is smooth his hair down and put on clothing from the GAP and no one is the wiser… until his boyfriend Nathan (Adamo Ruggiero) shows up! Yes, the premise is that cheesy, and what follows is a predictable parade of close calls and innuendo powered humor.
The film can be a bumpy ride when first getting used to the humor and occasionally amateur performances from the cast. Some of the stereotypes feel dated, such as gay people being obsessed with clothing and hair, but this is redeemed by the lack of vulgar, shock humor that the American Pie franchise has made so trendy.
The stellar music and directing helps ease the film through some rough patches until the movie hits its pace and takes a welcome dive into drama. There’s real chemistry between Gunn and Nathan, and they get plenty of screen time together, something many gay movies fail to provide. The cheap laughs never cease, but they feel more balanced among a few tears.
The eccentricity of Gunn’s parents is a major selling point, as is the dual personality of Gunn’s ex-girlfriend. The execution of these characters could have been reined in a bit, but the good nature behind their unusual behavior makes it hard not to warm to them. This reflects the hopelessly optimistic spirit of the movie, something highly appropriate for a holiday flick.
Make the Yuletide Gay is more of a homemade Christmas card than a polished movie gem. It’s the sort of film Hollywood still doesn’t have the balls (or heart) to put out, so its imperfections are easily forgiven. That Adamo Ruggiero is both openly gay and absolutely adorable is worth some major bonus points as well. A gay holiday themed movie is cause enough for celebration, and anyone looking to enhance their festivities with a little light-hearted fun won’t go wrong with this film.
These clever little devices are called pyramids in German, but are probably better described as carousels. They operate on a very simple premise. The heat generated from the candles moves the wooden fan blades above, causing everything to spin. Usually there are little figures in the pyramids center that enjoy going for a ride. As you can see from the video below, pyramids can range from table top size up to mammoth heights taller than a building.
Er, it seems I failed to video tape one that actually is spinning from the heat of candles. Ah well, maybe next year. Believe me when I say they can really book! I’m honestly not sure what connection they have to Christmas, but “Weihnachtspyramide” make fantastic decorations.
If there’s one holiday that’s big in Germany, one big festive money shot that the entire country revels in, then without a doubt it is Weihnachten. That’s Christmas to you and I. Over here the celebrations span multiple days, including four advents, a day dedicated solely to Santa Claus, and a trinity of days as a grand finale. I plan on covering many of Germany’s colorful Christmas traditions this month. First and foremost, I want to talk about advent calendars.
In the US, an advent calendar is usually a thin, cardboard affair with molded wafers of chocolate behind each door. Here it could be anything. Usually it’s candy of all varieties, but toys, liquor, even music boxes can be included. One of my favorite advent calendars is by Kinder and includes a surprise egg for every day.
Surprise eggs, for those that don’t know, are chocolate eggs that contain a toy inside. They are sold everywhere in the world except the US, due to the tricky food laws there. The two-toned chocolate doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, but the toys inside are universally popular. The Surprise Egg calendar offers 24 of these eggs, including Christmas exclusive toys mixed in with the usual random assortment. These holiday toys often double as ornaments, and after living here for the last six years, my tree is absolutely covered in them.
Lego calendars are another personal favorite of mine. These can be found outside of Germany, but Europe has been spoiled the last two years with exclusive themes. Last year’s was Medieval, and the order of the toys received was wonderfully thought out. One day you might get a witch figurine, bricks to build the cauldron and fire the next, and a shelf full of potions on the third day. This year the theme is Pirates. Admittedly it’s even less Christmassy than witches and wizards, but the upside is that the figures have year round appeal.
In the end, Advent Calendars are nothing more than foreplay before the real event, but the wait is so much easier with a daily dose of gratification. At the end of the month, I’ll post photos of all the contents that came in these calendars. I think you’ll be surprised by just how much there is! Speaking of which, it’s time for me to open another door…