Holidays. Consumerism. Your Fall 2021 Semester exams and end-of-the-term projects. These must be on your mind as Christmas is drawing near, mustn’t they? Coming from a background as a Health Science graduate at Vanier, having lived in Hong Kong where shops are all over the town and with the habit of spending ample time with family, friends and loved ones over the Holidays, “Holidays” and “consumerism” obviously pop up on my mind as Christmas is happening in less than a month. Now settled in Germany, how has my Fall 2021 been? Have my points-of-view about “Holidays” and “consumerism” over Christmas changed over time after living here for five years? How is Christmas lived in Germany?
During my Vanier days, I spent my Winter holidays with my brother, who resides in Ottawa. On every 31st December, we would cheer over a self-made mojito. Since I met my German husband, holidaying began meaning something different for me. It means spending 1.5 weeks in the countryside, hiking and being surrounded by milk-producing cows when the climate is warm. Summer holidays are for us to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life and to hide ourselves in the Northern islands of the country simply. Christmas time means attending church on the 24th, followed by a warm dinner with family. (German culture has it that there is only one warm meal per day.) In case you did not know, Christmas is celebrated on 24th December in Germany instead of 25th December in Canada and most countries around the world. And starting from the first Advent, Germany would be illuminated with Christmas markets all around the nation. Due to tight COVID-19 regulations this year, Christmas markets in our region were closed. However, we ended up visiting the one in Strasbourg, about two hours drive from where we live. And no, we do not live too far from the French-German border. Although the market spirit was missing on the German side, we were filled with amazement on the French side. What a bliss! Thanks to Macron and his government?
Department stores and every Canadian on the 26th of December are all about shopping and getting everything while it is still on sale. In Germany, it is very different. On the 26th of December here, it is tranquil, for it is meant for family get-togethers with all shops closed, as they also are on Sundays and public holidays. Christmas in Hong Kong may resemble Canada more, where shops are open every day, except for the once-per-year Chinese New Year.
Reflecting on my Fall 2021 “semester,” I can conclude that it has been fruitful and eventful. As your semester was starting, End-August marked the end of the summer for my family with our second summer family trip, this time to the North Sea. In mid-September, about three weeks into your semester, my family and I made it to an outdoor swimming pool on the last day before it would close for the colder season. October came, Vanier students were busy writing mid-term exams, and my baby girl could already stand up on her own, with support – babies grow so fast and how time flies! Then, in early November, as maple leaves turn red and fall all over Montreal, on the Vanier campus, we celebrated my older daughter’s fourth birthday. In December, it is for both you and I, a time of recollection, preparation and at least one new resolution for the year ahead.
If one lives in the city, one is bound to come across holidays and consumerism. Depending on different traditions and cultures in the family and bringing-up, “holidays” and “consumerism” could mean differently for other people at different stages of their lives. As for me, having spent my adolescence in Hong Kong and coming from a family who shops for souvenirs on their travels, my habits and views about holidaying and consumerism have changed after my marriage and the birth of my children. I barely go on city trips and no longer purchase souvenirs at tourist spots. For now, no more Boxing Day in Germany, but I hope to relive it one day in Canada, where I feel at home.
By Yvonne Y. F. Kelle