My cousin recently posted a meme on facebook that read
„When was the last time you did something for the first time?“
I had to think fast, and yet I couldn’t really come up with a good answer, and that made me rather sad.
When we are kids, first times present themselves constantly. As we grow older, there are fewer opportunities for them. Partially because we have already done so much, but also because in our daily life and routine, we seek them out far too seldomly. Aside from seeing all the places on my Bucket List (and more) – what about my everyday life? Where’s the new, the unknown? It’s not like there aren’t things I’d like to do for the first time. I have never had absinthe. Or Haggis. Or snails. I have never done kite surfing. Or rock climbing. Or swing dancing. And there is bound to be more. I should really try to keep in mind that every day may grant me the opportunity to do or try something for the first time.
I think that the magic of first times is what we celebrate in Germany when we celebrate Advent. The number of first times, even if just for that specific year, increases dramatically in December.
There is the first of advent (which is today!), the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve, when the first candle on the advent wreath is lit. The wreath holds four candles, one more will be lit each Sunday until Christmas. Christmas isn’t coming without and advent wreath or fir sprigs that hold all the little decorations I have found in my advent calendar over the years.
The advent calendar of course is most exciting, most special on the 1st of December. It consists of 24 little surprises, one for each day between December 1st and 24th. Mine is an embroidered beauty of the 26 letters of the alphabet, all formed by little Santas, surrounded by tiny packages that hold chocolates. It took my mom 6 hours to finish each letter when she handmade the calendar. She really must love me. But then again, for what by now must be 15 years I stand before the filled advent calendar every year on December 1st and am overcome by a childlike excitement and joy, and I know that Christmas is coming, and for some reason, that means that all will be well.
This year, December 1st and first of advent were both in one weekend. And that wasn’t all. This weekend also had the first snow – huge snowflakes in a graceful dance outside my window, covering the yard in a thin sugar coat that makes the grey and dull sight so much prettier. Unfortunately in Berlin, more often than not, snow melts right away. The city’s steaming body gets to it too fast. Still there’s magic in snowfall.
I also went to the Christmas Market for the first time this year and had mulled wine (now it wasn’t the first mulled wine of the season, but mulled wine is just too delicious to wait for it until December every year!). Weihnachtsmarktzauber at Gendarmenmarkt may be the prettiest of Berlin’s more central Christmas Markets. The white tents with the large Moravian stars on top of them are bustling with people of all ages. Some of them sell delicious Christmas Market specific food, like roasted chestnuts and sugar roasted almonds. In others they sell handicrafts, usually very pretty, but really expensive. Christmas Carols are played as well. Lately „Winter Wonderland“ and „Let it snow“ have driven out the more traditional German songs, but let’s face it: You can’t be sure that Christmas is coming until you’ve heard Wham’s „Last Christmas“ on the radio for the *first time* that year anyway, so you may as well make your peace with the fact that English Christmas Carols are saying that the holidays are coming just as much as German ones.
Even though all these Christmas related things are „first times this year“, not „first times“, they remind me of the beauty of a new start and of the fact that I should treasure *first times* and try to make them happen more frequently.
By the way, I did come up with a very first time after I read my cousin’s meme. I had a dream that was entirely in Polish for the first time when I was last in Gdańsk. The realization of it made me feel giddy and exhilerated. Blessed with the new and unknown, with the excitement of discovery. What a feeling!