Culture Shock: Gingerbread in September
It's 30 °C outside in September and you can find Christmas cookies, cakes and chocolates at the German supermarkets.
by Duygu Bräuer
Is Christmas already around the corner? Why can we already buy gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”) in Germany?
After a long hot day at the end of summer, you go to a supermarket to buy some cold beverages. It smells spicy inside and you catch the scent of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, which reminds you of winter and Christmas. At the corner, you can see the source of the wintery smell: The supermarket shelves are full of cookies, cakes and chocolates associated with Christmas. You might think: How come Christmas products are to be found so early in supermarkets when it is hot outside and when it is still September? Totally a culture shock, isn’t it?
In my home country, that kind of products associated with religious days and big holidays such as New Year’s Eve are not easily found earlier than one month before the related holiday. In the US or UK, Halloween products are sold first in September and October; Christmas products come to the markets only after Halloween. But Halloween does not have a strong effect on Germany, so Christmas products come along with the official start month of fall. Why does it start so early?
Traditionally, Christmas cookies find their place at supermarkets in the 35th calendar week, which means the end of August or the beginning of September. Experts point out the demand by customers as a reason. The Association of the German Confectionary Industry (BDSI) stated in a press release that Germans look forward to enjoying the popular autumn treats once the temperatures get colder.
What are these autumn treats? Basically, they are the Christmas cookies and cakes, which are called Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Stollen, Zimtsterne and so on. But Lebkuchen, a soft gingerbread cookie, is the most demanded product among all Christmas products according to the survey of BDSI. One popular producer of Lebkuchen stated that even though it is hot in September, the company achieves its highest sales of Lebkuchen during this month. Although the products are mostly sold in Germany, some are also exported to places all over the world, such as Russia and South America, during the year.
It is a controversial topic in Germany to find Christmas goodies so early. Catholic and orthodox churches criticise the early sales of Christmas products since the origin of the tradition might get lost. Many people express their displeasure about this early start of sales in social media since there are four months left until the holidays and they do not feel the Christmas spirit yet. Despite the critics, Germans eat an average of one kilo of Christmas treats per year, according to Germany's Destatis statistics office. People are complaining about the sales; however they buy the Christmas treats because they cannot consume these products for around eight months during the year, hence they become more appealing, experts says. Thus, you don’t have to rush to the supermarket to enjoy your winter treats since you have plenty of time until Christmas in Germany!
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