Santa kommt zweimal zu uns!

I posted a question today on my easytoddler Fan Page on Facebook asking if we should open our Christmas presents on the 24th in German style or on the 25th following the British tradition.  For those of you not already familiar with my story I am Scottish,  married to a fantastic German guy and live a couple of km south of  Berlin.  I love Christmas and the traditions that come with it but since meeting my husband, Marco, there have been many (too many) that I have had to forgo and some new ones that I have welcomed but I want my son to grow up experiencing both cultures.  Is it possible to combine the two and for how long?

Still waiting for the roasties to be served!

My biggest lost is Christmas Dinner.  What I would give now to have an overloaded plate of turkey, roast potatoes, chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon with chestnut stuffing and gravy.  This was always preceded in our house by prawn cocktail followed by homemade soup and finished off with a choice of sweets including the grand entry of the flaming Christmas pudding and of course, upon immediately sitting down at the table we would jostle with each other as to who pulled whos Christmas cracker, don our paper hats and read out the usual unfunny joke.  Every Christmas morning my younger brother and I would wait excitedly outside the living room door urging our father to hurry up and unlock the room that would make us hold our breaths when we entered it. Is this your Christmas day memory too?

It is this excitement and joy that I want my son to experience.  Leaving out a plate of mince pies, a glass of whiskey for Santa and a saucer of milk for Rudolph. Trying to stay awake all night to catch a glimpse of Santa filling your stocking which hung at the end of the bed.  I must admit Christmas Day is slightly flat for me now.  The 24th is a lovely tradition in Germany when my son will be visited personally by Santa and given his presents at home surrounded by his grandparents and some of our neighbours and I always love going to the late night church service with my husband.  But then what, we still open some presents on the 25th and have dinner with my in-laws but it´s just not the same for me without the present opening, the crackers, the turkey dinner and of course the obligatory left over turkey sandwiches later on after having watched the Wizard of Oz for the 100th time!  Regardless of which traditions we decide to celebrate in our house I know that my son will still have fond memories of his childhood Christmases.  How do you celebrate and what are your fondest memories of Christmas? I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year xx

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Tränenpalast Berlin – Palace of Tears

I actually managed to spend a morning last week with real people as most days are spent in front of my laptop networking with my on-line friends!  I  joined the Berlin International Woman´s Club (BIWC) on a trip to the Tränenpalast.  The name given to the border crossing station at Berlin´s Friedrichstrasse railway station because of the many tearful goodbyes that took place in front of the building.  It was here that citizens from the West had to say farewell to their friends and relatives from the former East Germany who were not permitted to travel to the Western part of Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the building was no longer required but reopened in September this year housing a museum in memory of it´s former role as the GDR border crossing station.

Friedrichstrasse railway station was located entirely in the former Soviet sector of Berlin.  The Tränenpalast was used only for westbound border crossings, with separate checkpoints for citizens of West Berlin, and West Germany, foreigners, diplomats and East German citizens. There were guards stationed to separate people permitted to cross the border leading to many tearful goodbyes in front of the building.

The extensive checks in the building included three individual passport  checks, customs control, waiting rooms, since the crossing could take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, offices to register and record people crossing the border, and a counter for visa fees and the mandatory currency exchange. After the border check, passengers would enter an underground walkway that led to the underground stations.  Thousands of Germans attempted to escape the East German dictatorship but only a small amount were successful in fleeing through the heavily guarded Station.

Although the Museum is small in size it is packed full of original photos, artifacts, recordings from families telling their survival stories and a small cinema showing old newsreels from both the West and the East.  This was really fascinating seeing how one story was transmitted to the West side and the same story relayed with an entirely different meaning to the East. Makes you question the power of media!  The museum is well worth an hour or more and I will be adding it to my list of “things to do and see” for our UK visitors.

Entrance to the Tränenpalast which is not visible when exiting Friedrichstrasse Station

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