Trading traditions: Time for Christmas goose

Trading traditions: Time for Christmas goose

by Genevieve Northup
Stripes Europe

Growing up, my family picked out a real Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving each year. Mom touched branches and scrutinized each tree’s fullness, symmetry and height. With the perfect evergreen selected and decorated, Mom turned to the most important aspect of the holiday season: the food. 

Mom spent December baking pralines to give to neighbors and decadent cakes for her elegant holiday dessert buffet. After, she made more sweets, which we transported across state lines to my grandparents’ house. Once there, my grandmother and aunts joined Mom in the kitchen to make the rest of the holiday dishes, while my grandfather kept an overnight vigil to check the slowly smoking turkey every few hours. So much love, care and time went into our ever-growing extended family’s Christmas Day feast. Each year, chairs were added for new spouses and babies, and many cherished holiday memories involve my grandparents’ table. 

Over the past seven years in Germany, my husband and I have created our own traditions. We bundle up for Weihnachtsmärkte, where my husband eats several pounds of roasted chestnuts, and I dance around with mugs of Glühwein to stay warm because this Texas gal never adapted to cold weather. We open gifts Christmas morning and video chat with stateside family in the late afternoon. 

I don’t spend days in the kitchen … and it would actually take days to cook all of those holiday specialties in my small oven. I make a few favorite seasonal recipes throughout the month for us to enjoy. Instead of having people over for turkey, my husband and I invite close friends to go out for the customary German meal of Christmas goose (Weihnachtsgan). I know that it is difficult to imagine Christmas without a Butterball, but that is exactly what we have done — and, honestly, we don’t miss it. 

The past five years, we have had Weihnachtsgan at Zum Kääser in Erzenhausen, 15 minutes from Ramstein Air Base. The dining experience is lovely and affordable, and VAT forms are accepted. The old half-timbered dining room is illuminated by candles and a crackling fire. Dinner is served in courses, beginning with soup, usually potato or pumpkin, and salad. The goose is presented on a silver tray and placed on ceramic hot plates to keep it warm. A staff member slices through the crispy skin and serves the preferred part of the juicy bird to each guest, along with moist chestnut stuffing and rich drippings. Red cabbage (Rotkohl) and bread dumplings (Semmelknödel) are passed family style. 

Celebrating without our loved ones back home was at first strange and a bit disheartening. Now, we are thankful for the opportunity to explore Europe and take part in local customs — and even more thankful for the friends we’ve made along the way. 

Weihnachtsgan is on restaurant menus around Germany from St. Martin’s Day, Nov. 11, to the end of December. You must reserve in advance so that the kitchen prepares an adequate bird and enough sides for your group. You can also purchase a goose to roast at home. Find recipes and tips at Germanfood.about.com

 

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