Holiday mania has hit Berlin. Massive displays of chocolate and marzipan have taken over the grocery stores, and Christmas markets and stalls are going up everywhere. The crowds are as thick as ever, but that doesn’t mean the Germans are filled with holiday cheer. During a long wait in line at a store last week, the man in front of me was arguing with the checker while two women behind me were hurling invectives at each other over who was first in line.
A good way to escape holiday stress is to head outside the central city into one of Berlin’s many pastoral enclaves that line its lakes and rivers. We spent part of the last two weekends at Gutshof Gatow, an organic farming estate where visitors can purchase products made on site or sit and enjoy house-made kuchen and coffee. On Sunday we made beeswax candles for Hanukkah with Ohel Hachidusch. For those of us new to this craft, we received instruction from Anna Adam, Ohel’s artist extraordinaire, who delivered our materials in the Happy Hippie Jew Bus. Anna and Cantor Jalda Rebling travel the land in this decked-out, pseudo-60’s VW bus to bring Jewish life and creativity beyond the Jewish cultural hub of Berlin.
Though I’m not quite ready for this year’s early Hanukkah, we do have enough tapered beeswax candles for the first few nights. And then there’s Thanksgiving, my favorite American holiday which I will never give up as an expat. I’m not much of a hippie, but it’s great to stay laid back during the holidays. So bring on the Hanukkah Geld and roast turkey!