Christmas Traditions, Customs & More.

I thought it would be fun to search around for some sources to share some German Christmas traditions. My family background is mainly Latvian, pretty much everyone in my family (except my brothers and I), were all born in Latvia. My father and his family were from Latvia and then there is my mother who actually was born in Germany to Latvian parents. So while I, myself, am not German per say, there are some European traditions that are similar in nature from country to country.

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For fun, here’s an Advent and Christmas Quiz from the website, “The German Way & More“. My score? I received 7 out of 10 correct! Look at the brain on me!

From Advent, to the German glass pickle ornament myth, to yuletide, here’s an A-to-Z Guide to Christmas traditions. This “guide” offers some insight into the many different Christmas customs from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

If you were wondering what the differences are between Christmas in the United States and Germany is, try here to find a comparison chart with links to more information. One custom I can relate to is that my family always open presents on Christmas Eve. In the United States, the customary thing to do is to wait for Christmas Day to open gifts. I always thought I was really cool and special to be able to open gifts before all my friends. Growing up we never really left any cookies and milk out for Santa, maybe we had some stocking stuffers to open the next day on Christmas Day, but everything else was done on the Eve. Church, dinner and then gifts! While at the link provided above, you’ll find some good seasonal etiquette if you are traveling to Germany during the Christmas season.

I hope you find some interesting information while browsing through those links I provided. What are some of your holiday traditions? Share them with us in the comments!

As I wrap up this quick post for today, the elves are working up some holiday fun at Gourmet International for our holiday party! Stay tuned, we hope to share some photos and cheer from festivities that are to take place on Friday afternoon!

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The History of the Cinnamon Star.

It’s a common holiday item that can be seen on store shelves or fresh out of the oven in kitchens. Have you ever wondered what is the cinnamon star, also known as zimtsterne in German, all about? And did you know at one point cinnamon stars were considered illegal in Germany? And speaking of “points”, the traditional cinnamon star has 6 points! Let’s dig into the history of the cinnamon star!

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The cinnamon star arrives during the Christmas holiday season and is offered during the Advent season. Made with almonds and cinnamon, these little stars are full of flavor. Back in the 1600s, cinnamon in Europe was expensive and a rare spice and almonds had to be imported. Food items such as these were usually considered reserved for royalty. Since cinnamon and almonds were expensive and scarce, this helps offer a reason as to why these two staples were only enjoyed one time a year at special occasions like Christmas. Traditionally these zimtsternes are baked before Advent, stored and shared during the holiday season. (Source: The Spruce)

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And so what is this about cinnamon stars being illegal in Germany? I stumbled upon this NPR archive when searching for the history of cinnamon stars. Well, back in 2006, a scientist in a government food safety lab smelled something strange. The scent was bitter and strong and it turned out to be coumarin.

Medical Definition of coumarin: a toxic white crystalline lactone C9H6O2 with an odor of new-mown hay found in plants or made synthetically and used especially in perfumery and as the parent compound in various anticoagulant agents (as warfarin); also : a derivative of this compound (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)

Coumarin found in cinnamon can have a toxic effect on the human liver. The scientist at the government food safety lab found coumarin levels up to 40 times higher than what is traditionally allowed. By the time it was discovered how much coumarin was in the Christmas cookie, many of them were already packaged and placed upon store shelves waiting to be purchased. Officials hemmed and hawed on what to do about the situation and in the end decided to alert consumers not to eat too many or too much of any food with cinnamon in it. You can bet that political lobbyists have had their way and sway within the German government. Coumarin levels in German food was supposed to drop to legal levels after that particular holiday season. Rest assured, cinnamon stars are no longer illegal in Germany, but what an interesting turn of events that happened just over 10 years ago! (Source: National Public Radio)

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Take it from me, and my little elves, we all agree that the cinnamon stars are delicious and we promise not to eat too many at one time! As most traditional treats I’ve been posting about this holiday season, these cinnamon stars are delish with coffee or tea! These specific cinnamon stars are made by Wicklein.

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