A few snaps from the office Christmas party
The Silvester, or Repelling Napoleon

Nürnberg. The home of Christmas, Inc.

People talk about the commercialization of Christmas like it was something new. But the silly season has shrunk our wallets for centuries. The custom of wasting huge wads of cash on tasteless kitsch can be traced back to the traditional German Christkindlmarkt.
During advent, wood carvers, wreath-weavers, glass-blowers and seamstresses set up stalls in town squares across Germany to ply seasonal wares. Somebody had the bright idea of throwing spiced wine in a Feuerzangenbowle (a primitive microwave) and selling it to shoppers to fend off the cold. The drunken townsfolk would choose a child, and dress it up as the as the Christmas angel, and get the poor kid to wander around blessing everyone. Or something.
Over time, the cities with the biggest and most beautiful town squares naturally attracted the best and brightest merchants. In Bavaria, that city is Nürnberg.
My brother, headbang9, his wife Pianissima, and my 9 year-old nephew Stretch visited for the Christmas season. Pianissima has a keen eye for traditional housewares, décor, and other finery. Master Right is here for the holidays, too, and like most Japanese, is eager to soak up as much exotic Christmas cheer as he can. Visiting a trad Bavarian Christkindlmarkt sat at the top of our to-do list.

Actually that’s not 100% true. Coming from Australia, the top of Stretch’s list was to have a snowball fight. But he humoured his parents. Besides, he’s into knights and armour and castles (the influence of a Lego-rich childhood) and Nürnberg has plenty.
Ornaments aplenty, too. In the course of advent, shoppers would buy over a 1.8 million of them in Nürnberg. Our immediate goal was to trim the tree at home and find a figurine for a friend’s nativity set. An elephant. It seems that one of the three kings from the orient wasn’t quite so oriental. He was African, and traveled by elephant. We found several nativity elephants, and a large selection of kings from the east, for that matter. Let’s call that theological diversity.
Nürmberg truly charms the visitor. You can feel its scholarly and legal heritage—from the courthouse where the famous war trials were conducted to Europe’s oldest bookshop on the square. We ate lunch at a splendid inn, where I tasted goose for the first time. The old carol which sings about the goose getting fat ain’t wrong; it’s the richest poultry I’ve ever eaten.
Street musicians abound—our favourite was a superb horn quartet from St. Petersberg. At the other end of the musical spectrum, I have never seen so many Santas playing accordion with dogs on their shoulders. Not only is it always the same shoulder, it looks like it’s the same dog.
Nürnberg invites sister cities from around the world to sell their ethnic wares in the international village. Few of these cities come from the Christian world, and their representatives offer almost no Christmas goods. This includes the surprisingly secularized stall from Atlanta—doing a very slow trade in Tootsie Rolls, creamed marshmallow, and Duncan Hines Brownie Mix. God bless America. We left Nüremberg with a swag of ornaments for the tree, a nativity elephant, gingerbread galore, bellies full of mulled wine, and my pockets lighter by about €400. I regard the money as a kind of atheist Kirchsteuer.

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