In Germany, the fourth Sunday before Christmas marks the beginning of Advent, originally a Christian season spent patiently awaiting celebrations of the birth of Jesus on 25 December. Today, Advent season (Adventzeit) is for very many people simply four weeks of mulled wine-scented fun and festivities that bring a bit of much-needed cheer to the gloomy winter period with which Germany finishes the year.
This coming Saturday, 1 December, the first doors or little pockets will be opened on Advent calendars (Adventskalender) up and down the country. On Sunday, the first candle will be lit on ever-popular, evergreen advent wreaths (Adventskränze), and many a home will also be filled with the smell of freshly-baked, gently-spiced cookies and dense fruit breads.
In Germany, Advent is a time for coming together with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company, share some seasonal food and drink, and brighten the cold, grey days and long, dark evenings with a string of twinkling lights or two and a whole heap of festive cheer.
A is also for… Aachener Printen
Hailing from the west German city of Aachen on the border with The Netherlands and Belgium, these fat, rectangular sticks of gingerbread are flavoured with a mixture of warm, festive spices – ginger, allspice, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, aniseed and/or coriander – and sweetened with sugar beet syrup. Available plain or covered in nuts, chocolate, marzipan or a sugary glaze, Aachener Printen have protected designation of origin status, meaning they must be entirely and traditionally made in Aachen – and their exact recipe is a secret known only to traditional Aachener bakers.