Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel

The In-Between Days

It’s 5 degrees outside, and the Santa babushka dolls have disappeared. The advent calendars, much to my daughter’s chagrin, have been packed up, and the extremely sweet candle I bought to scent the air with Christmas cosiness reached the end of its wick last night. There is a bit of Christmas cake left in the fridge, and the tree is still standing, decorated, but otherwise, the season is halfway out the door.

It was a lovely Christmas, mild and sunny, full of chocolate and biscuits and Christmas songs every single day. Die Lüdde may have been too young this year for Santa and the magic around him, but she danced to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer like there is no tomorrow, and never met a Pfeffernuss she didn’t like. Next year, she’ll be wiser to the red man in the suit, and we might be able to make a Knusperhaus without too much chaos.  But there is plenty of time to grow up; for now, unwrapping lift-the-flap books, and trying her luck asking for a marzipan heart, and Rudolph on repeat were magic enough.

For my part, I oscillated between being filled with the magic of Christmas – and the accompanying food – and missing my family and my country accutely. It is a hard time of the year to be apart from family, even when one is so very fortunate to have family to spend the days with. Missing one does not negate gratefulness for the other; it simply creates a special type of tension that comes to characterise the experience of living as a foreigner. Christmas, to my mind, will forever be linked with hot weather and loud cicadas and louder relatives, a 12 hour Christmas lunch, paper hats from Christmas crackers, drunk charades, Boxing Day cricket tests and leftover ham. That isn’t to say I don’t love Christmas here; it is simply to say I will always feel a pull towards Australia at this time of year, more profoundly than any other time. And that, as much as I understand and enjoy the notion of Gemütlichkeit and think Glühwein is a truly wondrous thing, the Christmas I know – the one given to me and cultivated over 25 years – is one spent with bare feet and cold wine. What we see and have as children, creates the natural nostalgia that comes with Christmas as an adult. We never regain that sense of pure, boundless magic, once we grow out of it, and for good reason; there are certain things that belong to children. But we do take the remants of Christmas magic into adulthood, and it fills the season with a sweet nostalgia that never quite goes away.

So now, to look ahead. We are in the in-between days, as the Germans call them*, those quiet days after Christmas and before the new year begins. (I like the in-between days. They are always so relaxed, like the world has a slight hangover and no one really feels like doing anything much. And I love new years. God I love new years, with their promises and unknowns.) The mildness we ate our Christmas dinners in has fled, and by the time 2016 dawns, it will be 0 degrees during the day. It will be -2 by week’s end. Those who spent Christmas tut tutting about the non Christmassy weather, will get their snow, and those of us who have been silently praying all month that snow won’t come, will burrow further into the couch and insist on it being unhealthy to leave the house.

The Winterschlaf continues.


(I should clarify, the Germs technically call these days ‘between the years’ days, but I think ‘in-between days’ has a better ring to it. So I used a little creative licence!)



  1. silke

    28 December, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Bittersweet. Enjoy the stillness of these days “zwischen den Jahren” – with a lot of Vorfreude of everything beautiful 2016 holds in store! xxx

    1. Liv

      4 January, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Bunkered right down and surfed quietly into the new year. I hope your family did too, xxx

  2. Jim Holder

    29 December, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Liv, you’re the greatest! Please enjoy a great Holiday Season!

    1. Liv

      4 January, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Thank you so much, Jim! And I hope your season was magical!

  3. JoSch

    29 December, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I like your blog. And I like Australians. 🙂
    From all native English speakers with which I have worked (in Germany) they were the most understandable. The most un- understandable was (apart from the Indians) the Scotsmen. Speak the Scots really English? 😉
    The ‘days between the years’ are the special days at the end of the lunatic year/ calendar to balance the ‘gap’ with the solar year.
    This expression dates back to Celtic and Germanic times and is otherwise known as the “Rauhnächte”. Wodan (Wednes- day!) rides with his “Wilde Jagd” over the countries. In the German speaking Alps the “Perchten” finalise these days. It’s a very exceptional time, eminently suitable for auguries and recollection. Many activities are forbidden. Backing and spinning for example. And you should not hang out white laundry. Die Wilde Jagd (Christianised: “Frau Holle”) will rob it and use it as a cerecloth for you or your relatives!

    1. Liv

      4 January, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Well, I have to say, I find the Scots hard to understand too, especially after a few drinks!

  4. jordanbeckwagner

    2 January, 2016 at 3:31 am

    I just love reading your blog! Funny that I’ve been reading it for a few years and recently met a guy from Kiel! What a coincidence. I’m an American that lived in Heidelberg for a few years. Now I’ll be making lots of trips to Hamburg and Kiel…would love to meet up at some point xo Happy New Year!

    1. Liv

      4 January, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Oh how wonderful, Kielers are excellent people! Drop me an email when you’re next in town, we can grab a coffee.

  5. Susanne

    5 January, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful insights, Liv. I love your frequent use of German words like naschers. As a German living abroad (currently in the UK) I can relate to so many things. You only realise how German or Australian (…) you are when you move abroad. Every place you live in peels away a layer and shows us something about ourselves.

What do you think?