Germany is final. A feeling that with the end of the year, the era of Angela Merkel comes to an end.
She will resign as chairman of her CDU party on Friday and has confirmed that she will not stand as Chancellor again when her fourth term ends in 2021.
There is a famous German proverb: "Everything has an end – only sausages have two." It occurs to me now, as the smell of roast meat flows from the Christmas markets in Berlin and mixes with the spicy aroma of mulled wine.
A couple of retirees are wandering around a market and disagree about their heritage.
"I have to say, I'm sorry she left," says Ingrid. "It was bad luck for her with the refugee policy, but for me she was the Chancellor ."
"She was in the job too long," argues Heinz. It would be better to have a two-term limit, as is the case in the US.
Can Merkel end her term?
The race to replace Mrs. Merkel as CDU chief is particularly indicted The party could emerge as the next German Chancellor.
"Unlike the UK, the party leader does not become automatic also a candidate for the prime minister, but traditionally it is always good for a chancellor to be chairman of his party, "says Jan Techau of the German Marshall Fund.
He says that Ms. Merkel has decided to resign as CDU chairman, but as Chancellor to create friction in the system.
"The moment you announce your resignation as party leader, you are all waiting for the moment when you also resigned as Chancellor. "
And while the Germans are preparing for Christmas, three candidates have been traveling feverishly through the country, stopping the party friends.
Everything comes to a head at the party conference on Friday, when only 1,001 delegates
EPA / Getty
During a foray into Berlin, the tribesmen gather to meet and question the three persons who, although relatively unknown outside Germany, have become household names.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – known as AKK – is the choice of Merkel
The 56-year-old former Prime Minister of Saarland was appointed Secretary General of the CDU earlier this year and is a party favorite propose. She is popular in the Saarland and in Berlin and has an unpretentious style and a reputation for calm analysis as well as political acumen.
Her greatest strength is her greatest weakness; She is a Merkel loyalist who is perceived as someone who will mimic much of the Chancellor's style and policies.
Friedrich Merz – former top party figure, pushed into the background by Merkel
The millionaire businessman was a strong player of the CDU in the early 2000s, but left politics when he launched with the chancellor.
The longtime lawyer, who has close ties to America, has built a career in the private sector and works for the US company Blackrock. He appeals to the more conservative and business-conscious wing of the party and has the official support of former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
Jens Spahn – young and energetic, but unlikely victorious
Ms. Merkel's health minister is ambitious and, at the age of 38, the youngest of the three candidates.
The former banker was once described by Mr. Schäuble as "one of the great hopes for the future of our party."
But Mr. Spahn has disheveled in the Party and in the Cabinet feathers.Very conservative, Catholic and gay, For many, it is a divisive figure.
Why the candidates have a key challenge
After almost 20 years as a party leader, Ms. Merkel still has extraordinary respect in the CDU. The candidates must somehow embody change and at the same time be continuity.  When CDU supporter Michael watches in the audience, he wants AKK to take the helm: "We're looking for someone who can hold the party together, who can spark a lively debate but also get results. In the medium term – to replace Mrs. Merkel as Chancellor.
Another supporter, Elke, fears that Angela Merkel will leave a big gap. "We may all need three to fill this gap," she says.
Is this the beginning of the end?
What nobody is talking about openly here is the question of the rush of speculative newspaper columns.
Those who write Mrs. Merkel's political obituary are often premature.
She says she intends to work as Chancellor alongside the new party leader by 2021.
Much depends on who this person is. But few now think that this is likely – including Jan Techau.
"The moment the new leader is in the conservative party, her power base will be further undermined, authority will decrease and depending on who she is, that person will aspire to stand-off and become the Therefore, it is unlikely that it will be withdrawn from circulation. "
In a country where leadership positions continue and change tends to be slow, the political season begins to turn.