Archive for December, 2011

The Christmas season is when I miss Germany the most.  If you’ve ever strolled through a Christkindlmarkt sipping hot Gluhwein, you know Germany feels like the place where Christmas was invented and experiencing its authentic, old-world charm can put you in the Christmas spirit like no overworked mall Santa ever will.

It turns out many American Christmas traditions do have their roots in Deutschland, from the Advent wreath and Christmas tree, to nutcrackers and gingerbread houses. Even the modern concept of Santa Claus is said to be a blend of Saint Nicholas–a 4th century Greek bishop–and the god Odin of German paganism.  Like many Christmas traditions, a lot of ancient German practices were later Christianized, but retained elements of their indigenous roots.  If you want to experience a real interesting–and slightly terrifying–pre-Christian German tradition later associated with St. Nicholas, check out the mythical Krampus–essentially fury monsters wearing cow bells and carrying switches who accompany St. Nick through the streets of Alpine towns on the evening of December 6 to beat the sin out of particularly bad children…or intoxicated American tourists.

Or you could just stick to Gluhwein. 🙂 Here’s a recipe, sure to be a hit at any holiday party!

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle red wine (nothing too expensive)
  • Brandy to taste (optional)
1. Combine water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.
2. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze juice into  simmering water. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
3. Add the wine and heat until steaming, but not simmering. Remove the  orange halves. Serve Gluhwein hot in mugs. For mit Schuss , add a shot of brandy for a little extra sweetness.
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Bullying

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

This heartbreaking video by Jonah Mowry has received a lot of media attention over the past few days. Bullying is certainly nothing new—there have been bullies as long as there have been schools. Yet studies show that bullying has grown more intense and complicated in recent years, largely due to the added element of “cyber bullying” made possible by social networking sites and texting—mediums far more difficult for the Hall Monitor to police.

According to Army Times, 1 in 4 U.S. school kids is regularly bullied and military kids are especially susceptible due to frequent moves and a constant “new kid” status, plus the added stress and fear associated with one or both parents being deployed to a war zone.  Jonah’s video also points to the specific problem of bullying directed at gay teens, resulting in a number of tragic suicides every year. The power of Jonah’s words and tears are that they’re universal. Everyone must pass through the brutal gauntlet that is adolescence, but few people would ever want to go back that stage of life—regardless if you were the Prom King or a band-geek.

Dealing with the emotional, hormone-crazed, identity search that makes up those awkward teenage years is difficult enough without the added trauma of bullying now capable of following teens far beyond the schoolyard. Thank you, Jonah, for being brave enough to post such a raw message and moving cry for tolerance. It has already touched millions.