Nov 26, 2023

‘Weihnachtsheimweh’: Home Away From Home

Ella Parry explores how she reconnects to her home country during the Christmas period.

Ella ParryFood and Drink Editor

For some, the Christmas period is a time of spirituality. For others, it is the peak of social stress and panicked, last-minute present buying. For most students, especially international ones, it is a time of homesickness. The days become shorter – both because of seasonal changes and the dooming workload. It is in challenging times like these that I, and many others, tend to seek solace in familiarity. In college, this is something that can seem hard to come by while being away from home. While navigating this new world, I have found that revisiting Christmas traditions from your country of origin in a new light can be a lovely way to integrate this comfort into your December. Let me introduce you to German Plätzchen-culture and share my recipe for Engelsaugen.

Missing home

Of course, I, and most international students who celebrate this holiday go home for the actual Christmas celebration. However, to me, the magic and charm of Christmas lies in the weeks leading up to it. Weeks that I am fortunate enough to spend writing essays and learning how to code. Weeks in which I wish I could seek refuge in a Glühwein hut and listen to indescribably tone-deaf German women in their mid-40s drunkenly singing along to ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’. After glimpsing my future self, I remind myself that I am now living in a city with half a Christmas market at best, that serves very mediocre, whilst extortionately expensive, mulled wine. 


At this point, I would like to add a disclaimer: I love Ireland, I really do. While I am incredibly grateful to live and study in this country, I would be lying if I said I did not yearn for German Christmas. So, while I love a good Guinness, I miss the abundance of Christmas markets I grew up with.

When I was in my first year of college, I realised just how much I missed the German Christmas traditions when I received a parcel full of Christmas foods from my family. In an attempt to solve this, I had an advent-themed party in my disgusting Halls kitchen. Sharing the Plätzchen (German Christmas biscuits) I had been sent and sitting around a lit Adventskranz made me feel at home and at peace. If you too have felt a bit lost during this time of year, I would recommend surrounding yourself with people who feel like home and indulge in Christmas rituals.

German Plätzchen-culture

While I have come across many fascinating Christmas traditions, there is nothing that I love as much as our Plätzchen Culture. What makes Plätzchen special is the ritual behind making them. Let me set the scene: you are in your kitchen, candles are lit and incense is burning. Your Christmas CD of choice (we are going for a nostalgic setting, no Spotify allowed!) is playing. The cosiness of the scene is accentuated by a raging storm outside. ‘Tis the season to be jolly indeed! This is the setting in which Germans bake their treasured Christmas biscuits and, legend has it, even sometimes crack a smile.

In my opinion, baking in such conditions is an exercise in mindfulness in an often particularly stressful time. It is such a soothing activity, especially during our hectic exam season. Of course, this specific form of mindfulness has the positive externality of producing delicious biscuits.

It is a custom to give friends, family, and neighbours a small paper bag full of the different types of Plätzchen you have made. It goes without saying that a ruthless, unspoken competition arises in each neighbourhood. The quality of your Plätzchen resembles the stability of your household. Therefore, it is a key indicator of the happiness of your marriage, your children’s academic achievements, and your overall taste (at least in my books). If you do not have a particular affinity for baking or are just a busy person, you can always do what my mother does: buy homemade Plätzchen at your local school bazaar, pick the best, and market them as your own. I sincerely hope that none of my neighbours read UT.

Plätzchen-culture is a marriage of mindfulness and healthy competition and I LOVE it. The recipe I am sharing with you is a German Christmas classic. Engelsaugen, or ‘angel eyes’. 


“Engelsaugen” Recipe


Ingredients for about 72 Engelsaugen:

250g Almond flour (or regular if you prefer that)

1 tbsp baking powder

100g sugar



3 egg yolks

150g butter

175g redcurrant jam (my favourite!! You could use any jam, but please know I will think less of you)

For dusting: Icing sugar



1) Mix the ingredients and knead them by hand on a surface dusted with flour.

2) Separate the dough into six parts and form them into eight-centimetre-long rolls (Do keep in mind that this is a German recipe. Out of respect for my culture, do not eyeball anything. Please do not be under the illusion that these instructions are suggestions, they are orders. Get out the measuring tape <3) 

3) Chill the rolls in the fridge for half an hour.

4) Cut each roll into twelve pieces, making balls out of the pieces. Put these onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Make indents into the cookies either with your thumb (this makes ugly indents) or the end of a wooden spoon (this makes pretty indents but increases your washing up..such a dilemma!).

5) Put the dough balls in the fridge for another hour (Never in my life have I managed to wait a full hour, but this is your chance to prove that you are a better person than I am!). 

6) Fill the indents with jam.

7) Bake the Engelsaugen for ten minutes at 175 Celsius.

8) When they are finished, let the Plätzchen cool on a cooling rack. Dust them with icing sugar if you want.


Store the biscuits in tins with parchment paper separating the layers. They will keep for a few weeks.

Enjoy & Frohe Weihnachten!

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