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CHRISTMAS

German word of the day: Der Wunschzettel

In Germany, you might just get an answer back when you send a Wunschzettel!

German word of the day: Der Wunschzettel
A typical 'Wunschzettel'. Photo: DPA

What does it mean? 

Der Wunsch translates to “the wish,” and Der Zettel translates to “the list.” Together, they mean “the wish list,” one of the highlights of the Christmas season for many children (and perhaps adults as well). 

Where does it come from? 

The oldest wish lists found in Germany date back to the first quarter of the 18th century. Early Christmas wish lists were not actually requests for what children wanted for Christmas.

Instead, they were letters of gratitude from children addressed to the adults in their lives. This was an especially popular practice among the Protestant North-German upper class. 

Wish lists are sorted at one of Santa's addresses in Germany. Photo: DPA.

Over time, department stores and toy companies realized the power of the wish list as a marketing tool and simplified the process for children by producing lists of available products whereby children simply had to check off what they wanted for Christmas. 

Still, during war times, many children added a request for peace to their wishes, as well as dolls, toy soldiers, and other popular items. Today, children around the world carry on the tradition of writing a letter to Santa (or the Christkind) to say what they want for Christmas. In Germany, he answers. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Das Christkind

Where do children send them? 

In 1984, two children from Berlin and one from Saxony wrote letters to addressed to Santa Claus in Himmelpfort, a Lower Saxon town which translates to “Heaven’s gate.” The letters were answered by some kind postal workers who didn’t want to send them back without an answer. 

Word got around that Santa would respond to letters addressed to him in Himmelpfort. The next year, the post office received 75 letters addressed to Santa. 

Santa holds up his Himmelpfort address. Photo: DPA. 

READ ALSO: Santa's post office opens in Himmelpfort

Today, the Deutsche Post has seven locations across Germany where children can send letters to Der Christkind, St. Nikolas, or Der Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus). They are guaranteed an answer as long as the letter arrives by the third Sunday in Advent (December 13th in 2020). 

The Deutsche Post has since found some additional helpers for Santa to make sure that all the children get an answer. Last year, Santa and 20 helpers responded to over 250,000 thousand letters from 64 countries. 

Example Sentences: 

Wenn du einen Wunschzettel an den Weihnachtsmann senden möchtest, verwendest du diese Adresse: An den  Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspost, 16798 Himmelpfort, Deutschland. 

If you’d like to send a wish list to Santa Claus, use this address: An den Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspost, 16798, Himmelpfort, Deutschland. 

Ich finde es wunderbar, dass Kinder Wunschzettel an Himmelpfort schicken und Antworten zurückbekommen können.

I think it’s wonderful that children can send wish lists to Himmelpfort and get answers back.

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WEATHER

Will anywhere in France get a white Christmas this year?

A white Christmas might be at the top of many people's festive wish list but will it actually come true for anyone in France this year?

Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France.
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France. Non-mountainous parts of the country will not see snow this year. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

If you’re in France and have been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are probably out of luck. 

It has been freezing in recent days with temperatures falling to a low of -33.4C in Jura on Wednesday morning, but the cold spell isn’t going to last. 

Temperatures across the country will hover around the 10C level in most of France by the afternoon on December 25th according to Météo France, with parts of the country including Brittany and some parts of eastern France experiencing rainfall. 

By the afternoon on Christmas Day, the chances of snow look extremely limited. Source: www.meteofrance.com

On Saturday, there will be some snowfall, but only if you are high in the mountains at an altitude of 1,800-2,000m. On Sunday, places above 1,500m could also see snow – but this rules out the vast majority of the country. 

Roughly half the country will see sunshine over the weekend. The French weather channel said that this Christmas could be among the top five or six warmest since 1947. 

Last year, Météo France cautioned: “While we often associate snow with Christmas in the popular imagination, the probability of having snow in the plains [ie not in the mountains] during this period is weak in reality.”

One of the last great Christmas snowfalls, outside of France’s mountainous areas, came in 2010 when 3-10 cm of snow fell in Lille, Rouen and Paris. In Strasbourg, 26cm fell. 

On Christmas Day in 1996, 12 cm of snow fell in Angers – ironically, this was also the day that the film, Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël? (Will there never be snow at Christmas?) was released. It had been ten years since France had seen such snowfall outside of the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Météo France directly attributes declining rates of Christmas snowfall to climate change. Compared to 50 years ago, even the Alps receives the equivalent one less month of snowfall per year. 

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