On the 24th of December, at 1:12 PM in the afternoon, I have ascended to Whamhalla. It’s my own fault, I suppose- I was listening to a Pandora holiday station, but I thought I was going to be safe because they were playing the likes of Tony Bennett and Gene Autry.
Good luck, my fellow Wham Warriors who are still in the game- just eleven hours remain on the East Coast!
As we put Thanksgiving in our rear-view mirror and hurtle onward toward December, two of my favorite seasonal beverages have returned!
The Family Friendly One: Egg nog! While some people make their own nog, I prefer the store-bought variety. Egg nog started to show up in stores partway into November.
I like Lactaid’s version of this holiday classic best because dairy and I are not friends and Silk Nog just isn’t quite creamy enough.
One of my favorite things about eggnog is that it kind of always tastes like there’s rum in it, even when there isn’t. Speaking of boozy drinks,
The Slightly More Adult One: I was first introduced to Glühwein while I was living in Germany. It’s mulled wine, and it’s served hot. If you ever have the chance to go to a Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas Market, a mug of hot Glühwein while you’re standing around outside with friends in the cold is just a delightful thing. I hate that the markets are almost certainly closed this year. Stupid Covid.
Trader Joe’s carries bottles of Glühwein this time of year, made in Germany and imported to the US for the consumption of those of us who love it. I was excited to see the bottles all stacked up in the store. All you have to do is heat it up and drink it.
I might bundle up and drink it outside on the balcony, just to have a more authentic experience.
For my Thanksgiving post, I had the brilliant idea to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving joke images today. Then I checked and sure enough, I had the exact same idea during NanoPoblano 2016. Damn it, Past Steven, why don’t you ever leave some of the good ideas for Future Steven to execute?
Since my first idea for a Thanksgiving post has already been done, I’ll have to come up with something else. Perhaps a tale of the first Thanksgiving.
As an aside, can we talk about this for a second? Who ever thought it would be a good idea to have a dog and a bird create a feast for the entire group? For that matter, who thought that buttered toast and popcorn was a proper feast? (Full disclosure: childhood me thought that buttered toast and popcorn looked absolutely delicious, and in my tiny brain this meal was the height of luxury for many years.)
No, I’m actually talking about my first Thanksgiving in Germany. A quick recap for those who haven’t read this blog from the beginning: I started the blog in late October of 2011, and moved to Germany on November 11th of that year. This meant that when Thanksgiving happened two weeks later, I was alone in a new country. I hadn’t really made friends yet, and I was only just getting to know my coworkers. I was even still living in the hotel, because I didn’t find an apartment there until the following week.
What I did have was an overabundance of preparation- I had Internet-stalked the local English speaker’s Stammtisch, and had pre-emptively become Internet-friends with a few local folks. (A Stammtisch is basically any group of people that meets regularly, often in a pub. The literal translation is “regular table.” The shared topic of a Stammtisch can be absolutely anything- a photography Stammtisch, a bridge-player’s Stammtisch, you name it. Think of it like meetup.com, but in Germany and without the clunky website.)
Because I had started the conversation with other people almost before I arrived in Germany, I managed to score an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner being held at a local Irish pub called Murphy’s Law. (This Irish pub became one of my most frequent haunts for the three years I lived there, but that’s another story.)
The pub is all downstairs, and it feels like it’s carved out of a cave. It has a front area with a small amount of space ringing a U-shaped bar and a second much larger room which left empty unless they’re very busy. I was guided to this room on arrival, and I was seated with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I really only knew one person in the room at that point, and that one only just barely, so this was socializing-under-fire.
The dinner began, and it was a warm and friendly affair. I was the only American at my table, so I found myself acting as an impromptu American ambassador. I answered lots of curious questions from the others about traditional Thanksgiving customs back in the US. I wish I could remember some of the questions they asked, but this was nine years ago and I foolishly didn’t blog about it at the time.
Someone from the nearby US Army base in Hohenfels was at one of the other tables, and they had brought an American delicacy to be shared with the group: Twinkies.
I do love a traditional Thanksgiving Twinkie.
Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, since I’m in my new apartment here in Arlington, I’ve managed to score a can of jellied cranberry. It just isn’t a proper Thanksgiving meal if I can’t see the ripples from the can on the side of my cranberry, you know? Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure one of the questions I was asked at the German Thanksgiving dinner was about cranberry sauce. I have a vague recollection of someone being astonished that this was a food that Americans actively seek out and enjoy.
My family also has another tradition that is incredibly silly, now that I think about it. We would always have multiple pies after dinner, so you could choose which one you wanted to eat.
That’s not the silly part. The silly part is that one of those pies is a chocolate pudding pie. It is literally just chocolate pudding in a pie crust. With a little bit of whipped cream, sure, but it had no structure after it was sliced. It was just loose pudding in a pie crust.
Does your family have any unusual Thanksgiving traditions?
I’m being a very bad blogger, because I haven’t actually had much downtime to write a regular post lately. I also don’t have many ideas for what to write about, but I’m still working on that. I do still take a zillion pictures everywhere I go, especially when the place I’ve gone is very entertaining.
Here’s an example- over the weekend, Amelie and I went through the Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewind Park in Coconut Creek, Florida. Basically, they’ve set up all kinds of amazing Christmas and holiday themed light displays along the drive-through portion of the park. The light show is open from 6pm to 10pm all the way to January 3rd, and it’s $14 per car. They also sell 3-D glasses for $3 a pop to enhance the lights, because the three-dimensional objects in the park are not 3-D enough. This is hilarious.
The Holida Festival of Lights came to my attention because it’s visible from the Florida Turnpike, and it turned out to be significantly larger than I expected. It’s no Christkindlmarkt, but it’s still a fun little thing to see. Some of these photographs came out a little fuzzy because of the lighting and the moving car, and also because I couldn’t open my car windows that soon after they were tinted.
This traffic thinned out quite a bit once we got past the admission booths.
Severus the Christmas Sea-Horse… has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Just in case you forgot we’re in Florida, here’s a manatee.
…and penguins to suggest coldness even though it was still at least 70 degrees at dusk.
This fellow had a very convincing ho ho ho.
I’m not entirely sure what a snail has to do with the holidays, but we both liked him.
I’m not convinced that the 3-D glasses would have made this any cooler, but hallucinogenic drugs certainly would have.
This bear is epic.
Ice-skating bear. Check. Not as great as the previously noted epic bear though.
We had a lively debate on what this is supposed to be. It sort of looks like a ginger-bread penguin.
::cough cough:: Disney castle design rip-off. ::cough::
On Rose Monday, I was in Köln for the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) Parade. This was part of a slightly larger trip which included Karlsruhe and Stuttgart- I’ll talk about those in another post, because Cologne during Carnival is more than enough for one post.
First, a brief administrative note- I took more than 600 pictures, and I whittled them down to around 180 or so that were worth sharing with anyone. From those, I picked 32 for this post. If you want to see the ~150 that aren’t in the post, they’re in this gallery over here.
Second, there are a few things to bear in mind while looking through these pictures:
1) The best thing about the Carnival season for a big kid like myself is the costumes. There were so many costumes- I noticed a high count of bees, giraffes, and pirates. The people who wore full body fur suit costumes had the right idea though. The temperature wasn’t bad, but it was windy. Unless you were standing directly in the sun, it was kind of cold.
2) If I ever go to one of these things again, I totally need a costume with a helmet. Flying bars of solid chocolate hurt when they hit you in the head. Even a packet of Haribo gummi bears can be unpleasant if you get beaned right in the forehead. The candy was being thrown for hours, and after a while I started to shrink back like a kicked puppy any time someone made a throwing motion. The kids standing on either side of me made out like bandits from all the noggin-bounce candy castoffs, though.
3) These pictures actually span two parades. When I arrived in Cologne on Sunday afternoon, there was a different parade going. This parade featured more children, and wasn’t quite as large as the official parade on Monday, but it led to almost a quarter of the more than 600 pictures I finished the weekend with.
On to the pictures! The first one is an off-duty Superman, looking like a 70s pimp with that furry coat. I think the guy next to him is wearing a Batman costume, but I can’t be sure. This costume is particulary daring with the chilly weather.
Next up, a few Gnomes. The Gnomes aren’t what I love most about this photo, though. It’s the walking shower behind them… the curtain, the faucet… I think the shower costume is both creative and hilarious.
One of the many giraffe costumes I saw. I can pretty much guarantee that this guy was not nearly as cold as I was.
This next couples costume won’t make much sense to my American friends without context, but I spotted it right away- there’s a series of very cute commercials here for Kinder Riegel milk chocolate. I’ve embedded an example below, so you can see what the costume is all about.
When it’s time for lunch, you can’t go wrong at a snack bar with thiscast of characters.
During the first parade, I was particularly amused by this entire family of bears, each equipped with his or her own Honig (honey) pot with which to catch candy thrown from parade floats.
Another chocolate-inspired group costume.
There were so many great costumes that I put nine more into an image collage. The full sized individual shots of each of these are in the gallery linked near the top of this post.
On Monday morning, the parade started at 10:30, but I found a place closer to the end of the parade route than the start, so the streets actually looked this empty at first. Also, you can see that the windows on the parade route are often boarded up. I’m not sure if this is because of drunken revelry or if it’s because of flying chocolate bars, but this is a pretty common sight along the parade route during Carnival.
The empty streets didn’t last too long though, and before long there was plenty to see.
There was a lot of NSA/Google/Facebook/Data-Security themed stuff.
I made these six pictures into a collage because they were all together, and there’s a theme here. The green wigged, blind-folded people have eyes on their hands to represent the constant watching of data leeches like Facebook. I think the NSA camera stick holders in the previous picture were also with this group. Plus the green wigs were conga-lining, which was kind of fun.
I don’t know what this one was supposed to represent, but I thought it was neat looking.
I have no earthly idea what the story is with this group.
The German on this golden knight translates to “Your cellphone, your freedom.” I’m not entirely sure what they meant by that, but I think it was another one talking about data security.
There were lots of marching band and drum corps types of groups in various ornate uniforms…
…and one group playing marching washboards.
Some of the floats were single-rider deals, like this one. The head was turning back and forth.
More marching bands…
More single-rider floats…
I think after about six hours of playing the same song, you start to go a little crazy. Like this guy.
Once again, I have no clue at all what the deal is with the giant yellow heads that all have soul patches and deerstalker caps. I bet they’re heavy though.
There were lots of horses in the parade, but these two had the longest manes of any horse I’ve ever seen. Usually, parade horses have their manes trimmed very short- not so with these two.
The Zugordners (parade marshals) were utterly fascinating to watch. They all had these bright red jackets with the little black hats that were vaguely English Bobby shaped. I have no idea what they actually did, though, because the parade sort of moved itself along without any special pointing from this guy or his brethren.
…and on to the floats. The German on this one reads, “Fun Ghetto.” Inside the jail is someone drinking, a pair of humping dogs, and other forms of caricatures of fun.
I’m not sure if this one had a meaning other than just being Carnival-themed.
This next one might need some parsing from my German friends. I think the German text is supposed to translate to “Upgrade you will.” The goat has a rocket strapped to his back. And Yoda’s wearing a scarf for what I’m pretty sure is a local sports team. I don’t really get the full meaning. Any locals care to fill us in?
This one says “The Death Star, Washington” on the side. There were a few floats that had anti-American sentiment. All the NSA spying stuff has really caused some friction between our nations.
About an hour after the parade ended, I walked over to the courtyard between the train station and the Cathedral. There were still an incredible amount of people moving through the city back to the train station.
I was wondering how the city recovered from something like the Rose Monday parade so quickly, and now I know. As soon as the parade was done, the cleaning crews came out. A veritable army of people with brooms gathered the majority of the debris into small piles, and another group came by with giant vehicle-sized vacuums. That giant white tube is a huge vacuum, sucking up piles of garbage from the street. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but I think it’s pretty nifty.