Today was der erste Advent, the first Sunday in Advent. This is a big deal in Germany – if I’d arrived any later at church, I’d have been standing – sooooo many children! It was great to see so many families in church, although it was rather chaotic and I didn’t really feel like I got much out of the church service. Still, that was more than made up for by the extremely impressive Gemeindefest, or parish party. Even if it did seem to take an inordinate amount of time to get everyone out of church and into the garden (German efficiency….?) I was greeted by a brass band, mini bonfires, homemade crafts, a Fair Trade stall, and stands selling three types of soup, crêpes, waffles, hotdogs, and cakes galore. Not bad for a community effort.
A staple of the Advent season here is the Adventskranz, to be found in many a German home and pouring out of florists’ doors. I do rather like them – maybe I should buy one.
And we all know another staple of the German Christmas season: Glühwein. Today’s cultural exploration took me to the Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt at the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauerberg:
Set on the site of a small 19th century brewery, this “cultural brewery” contains several linked courtyards and various buildings, including a restaurant, club, museum, independent boutiques, cafes, cinema and a theatre. It is also host to many open-air events throughout the year, such as this Christmas market.
A market dedicated to the Nordic and Scandinavian regions, a colony of wooden huts were offering their wares: knitted clothing, wooden crafts, paper lamps, herbs and spices, nautical compasses (a bit random?!), the largest range of honey I’d ever seen, fruit dipped in chocolate, roasted chestnuts and almonds, elk sausage (the Germans will make a sausage out of anything), reindeer salami, deer pasties, extortionate green cabbage (one serving for €6!) and of course Glühwein / Glögge / Glögi…or English cider, served in a traditional Christmas Market Mug.
After a couple of hours, feeling rather cold, we popped into the exhibition on GDR design to warm up. The German Socialist Unity Party (SED) controlled every aspect of life in East Germany, and the design of everyday objects was no exception. Within the context of socialism, successful design was simple, practical, functional and long-lasting; it rejected the decadent Bauhaus style favoured in the West. In 1972 the East German government even set up an Office for Industrial Design to monitor and coordinate all aspects of design. Creativity of course needed to be supervised and controlled…