I love melding traditions. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Europe. But I have come to embrace this wonderful holiday wholeheartedly as a gateway to Advent, since the 1st Advent usually falls on the Sunday right after Thanksgiving. This past week-end began with pumpkins and ended with our German Advent wreath. When I was little and still living in Germany the much anticipated 4-week period before Christmas was filled with baking Christmas cookies, eagerly awaiting St. Nicholas (who comes during the night of December 5 to December 6 and puts goodies into shoes the children leave outside their door before going to bed), going to Christmas concerts, having Advent Tea (or coffee, or cocoa) with Stollen, the German Christmas cake, and Lebkuchen, the traditional southern German Christmas cookies, on the four Sundays before Christmas while sitting by candle light and singing Christmas carols or playing Christmas music.
We would gather around the dining table and make straw star ornaments and transparent paper snowflakes to attach to the windows. When we were older we would spray beechnut and chestnut shells, which look like four-sided stars when fully open, silver or gold. And my mother would spray whole walnuts as well as eucalyptus branches with their pods silver or gold, which all make festive decorations.
Advent calendars are becoming more common here and my own teenage children have not yet outgrown this custom. My parents had explained to me that it would be Christmas once all the doors were open. In my wisdom I opened all doors at the same time and asked my parents whether it was now Christmas.
My daughter is baking Christmas cookies from a German Christmas cookbook as I write this. But I probably have to wait to be a grandmother to make straw stars again.
Also look back on a previous Advent post.