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November is usually ushered in with cold weather and sometimes even snow, at least where I’m from in upstate NY and from what I’ve heard that is usually the case here in the Cologne region of Germany as well. However, it has been unseasonably warm here for the past week. This week on several occasions I wore flip flops when I went out and traded my coat and sweater for short sleeves in what I would call “T-shirt” weather. What a change for November! It has been enjoyable to be outside and not to have to bundle up but I can’t help but think how weird it is especially as we are rapidly approaching the Christmas season. Well, the winter traditions still carry on even if the winter weather doesn’t, at least here in Germany. Last night we went to the “Lichternacht” Fest or Night of Lights Festivities at the local gardening center in our small neighborhood. Selbach is a small, locally owned gardening center and outdoor goods store  that carries everything from Christmas trees to locally grown apples and eggs from a neighboring farm. They have gardening tools and supplies from seed to soil, all kinds of plants and flowers, trees and shrubs and even a small cafe and a bakery inside the store.



After dinner my two year old daughter Anna, my husband Thomas and I took a walk in the warm evening air over to the gardening store where Anna likes to take a mini-cart around and look at all the plants and flowers, play with the water fountains on display and say hi to the cows in the neighboring field. Last night, however, when we entered the front doors instead of being greeted by overhead electric lights the store was lit only by Christmas lights, tea lights in paper bags, flickering candles everywhere and outside there were even open fire pits in large metal and terracotta pots. There were lights everywhere and lots of people milling about, too. The Christmas decorations were up and Anna immensely enjoyed the display of little villages coming to life with miniature people dancing, kids playing in the snow, a running train and carousel all moving to music from the Nutcracker Suite. On our way outside we encountered people gathering around glowing fires that were offset by a sea of potted plants and trees decked out with miniature lights and accented by lit fountains spitting glowing water into the air and back again. My husband and I enjoyed a hot mug of Glühwein at one of the tents selling this hot, seasonal beverage alongside freshly made waffles with sugar, sausages hot off the grill, homemade potato salads and more. Afterwards, we left the festivities and walked the short distance back home warmed by the sight of all the lights and the taste of spiced wine still lingering on our lips.



Glühwein Recipe

Adapted from Vital-Genuss.de

1 Bottle of Red Wine

1/2 Liter of Black Tea (I use decaffeinated Darjeeling)

1 Cinnamon stick

6 Cloves

1 Peel from an Organic Lemon

1 Organic Lemon cut into slices

1 Organic Orange cut into slices

Sugar to taste: 1 Tablespoon or more

1/8 Liter of Rum (optional)


Heat half a liter of water in a pot until boiling. Add black tea and steep. When the tea is ready take the bag(s) out and heat the tea again but do not boil. Add all the other ingredients and stir well. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes but DO NOT BOIL or you will boil off the alcohol. Add the rum if using and serve hot in mugs or heatproof glasses.



Holiday Punch

From Vital-Genuss.de

1 Bottle of dry Red Wine

1/2 liter of Black Tea

125 grams of Sugar (about 1/3 of a cup)

Juice from 2 Lemons

Juice from 2 Oranges

1 Cinnamon Stick

6 Cloves

Rum *optional*


Same as above, only add juice instead of the peel/slices from the lemons and oranges.


Enjoy hot on a cold evening at home or serve at your next holiday dinner party.