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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Family Christmas in Germany

Advent is the Christian season that spans the 4 Sundays before Christmas. Advent means "arrival," or "anticipation." A time full of expectation, music, and Christmas decoration.
Marianne, our live-in kindergarten teacher taught us to create little baskets, stars and bells from shiny gold and silver paper. We explored the woods to collect acorns, hazelnuts and fir branches to create our special decorations.

We would gather for our family breakfast at 8:30 am. on Sunday mornings during Advent.
The table was decked out in white and silver, each place setting had a fir branch, decorated with the bells, baskets, stars and gold and silver painted acorns, hazelnuts and a tiny red candle - as festive as can be. After breakfast, the we marched as a family unit to church; kids in front, parents following.

And then came Christmas. Ooh!
Germany celebrates Christmas actually on Christmas Eve, December 24th.
There was a running and hushing and secretly sneaking all over the house. A trying to stretch and crick our necks to catch a glimpse of just the Christmas tree, which was
erected and decorated in the music room on the afternoon of the 24th. Never earlier!  

At 7 pm the entire family was dressed in festive gowns, the gents in Tuxedos or at least a dark suit, yes, the little ones too. A buffet of shrimp and smoked salmon, deviled eggs and caviar was served. There was also a punch or champagne…. and I would become tipsy late at night after I sneaked up and sampled those forbidden liquid fruits.
At last, the rush to our presents that were piled up like little mountains; a little mountain for each child, parent, and household helpers, our Oma, Aunt, and cousins all gathered in our music room. The hour up to exchanging and opening gifts seemed to last for an eternity.
But first, we had to sing. Mother in front and overpowering everybody with her admittedly good, but loud, voice.
Rita, my younger sister and I played the grand piano four handed. Christmas songs that we rehearsed with our piano teacher for weeks. Edith, the oldest, played the concertina, Bernhard attacked the flute and Mother even abused the violin.
And everybody sang to this cacophony – the room was lit by nothing but candles, everybody’s heart basked in a solemn but celebratory mood.
After at least five songs both Rita and I had to recite (by heart, of course) a Christmas poem. Bernhard was allowed to READ the Christmas Story from the bible.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem...”

Then, our performance duties complete, we were allowed to storm and take possession of our toys, new clothes, books and knick-knacks.
Gifts for our parents HAD to be hand made by us, and therefore were always somewhat awkward.

Come 11 pm though, the complete family, sporting either new coats, hats, shoes or gloves, most of all wrapped up to stay warm, strolled to church again. Time for Midnight Mass.
Germany celebrates two Christmas days – the so called 1st and 2nd when all stores are closed, they are Sundays and one ws required to go to church. It was just bad luck when  the 24th fell on a Monday because then we had to go to church on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday.

On the first Christmas Day the traditional meal served was always a delicious crispy goose with potato dumplings and red cabbage as the main course, typically preceded by a soup before, and then completed with a dessert, after. Poor Mother and our household help! They had to produce a stupendous portion of dumplings, because we children would race to get the most of them, I remember, to this day, gobbling down as many as a dozen, and I am NOT making this up!

More will come!

Don't forget to hug your kids tonight! It's so important to tell your children that, yes, they CAN. I missed out on that :(
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Johanna (YooHUNNa)

1 comment:

  1. Thank so very much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading about your Family Christmas, So nice to meet you