By the end of November ‘Oxmas’ (as the short window for Christmas in the Oxford University term is often referred to) was already well underway, and I found myself frequenting the German Christmas stalls in Broad Street for mulled cider an unhealthy number of times. In this festive spirit, on 30 November 2016 a group of Oxford German Network Ambassadors travelled to Oxford High School to give the students a sample of German Christmas tradition. The event brought together students in years 7-9 from St Edward’s School, St Bartholomew’s, Chipping Norton School, Cheney School, John Mason, Oxford Spires Academy and Oxford High, who generously hosted this year’s event.
An impressive 63 students came with their contributions to the Weihnachtsplätzchenbackwettbewerb, an annual Christmas baking competition organised by the OGN. Over the course of the evening, OGN judges from the German sub-faculty of the university tasted – and immensely enjoyed – every Plätzchen variety, and then faced the challenging task of awarding separate prizes for originality, taste, and appearance to the best entries. Originality was a particularly interesting category, since among the contributions were a sleigh carved out of dough, an entire gingerbread church (complete with a vicar and his wife!), and biscuits designed specifically as a vegan alternative!
While awaiting the results of the baking competition, the students made ornaments for the OGN Christmas tree, many of which showcased their knowledge of German words and phrases, such as “Weihnachstgeschenke,” “Schneeflocke,” and “Deutsch ist prima.” As you can imagine, it ended in an arts-and-crafts flurry of creativity, paper and pipe-cleaners everywhere, but all in good jest.
Students then formed small teams and took part in a multiple choice quiz about Christmas in Germany – natürlich – containing questions about Christmas markets, St. Nicholas’s Day, and typical German food and drink, all with German Christmas carols playing in the background – auch natürlich. After learning more about Germany’s prominent Christmas traditions, the long-awaited prize ceremony finally arrived, which honoured several Plätzchen winners, along with the pupil who made the most creative Christmas ornament, and the group that earned the highest score on the quiz. The winners were presented with chocolate Santas, or Schokonikoläuse, which are a popular Christmas treat in Germany. But, of course, all participants were allowed to indulge in sweets, since each pupil contributed to the event very positively and enthusiastically. A few of the evening’s highlights are captured in the photos you see here.
We are very thankful that the Christmas baking competition has enjoyed such success in past years, and that it is becoming increasingly popular among local schools. As in previous years, local primary school “Phil and Jim’s” enthusiastically participated in the spirit of the event, holding their own competition for Year 6 German learners, who designed, made and decorated biscuits and undertook some vocabulary-learning challenges in school and at home.
A big thank you goes out to Oxford High School for agreeing to hold the event, and to all staff members and pupils for participating – and for continuing to share their interest in German language and culture with the Oxford German Network!
Frohes neues Jahr!
Helena Ord and Charles Britton, OGN Student Ambassadors