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tamquij
December 10th, 2010, 05:14 PM
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Officially, as my houseful of children would say, there’s only 2 weeks left until Christmas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas). The celebration day is marked with glittery gold highlighter on the calendar and Christmas letters to Santa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus) are written and waiting to be hung by the tree. My Advent wreath (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_wreath) is on the living room table, bold candles ready to mark each upcoming Sunday, the house smells of pine, cookies, and cinnamon. I’ve already placed the Advent Calendar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_calendar) (another tradition from Europe) on the kitchen counter, behind each door that counts down the days til Christmas, another piece of rich and creamy German chocolate waiting to be devoured. Even my youngest son is on his best behavior for an event that occurs this weekend.
What’s so special about this weekend, you might ask? Well, it would take a bit of history to fill you in.
From the 1960s to 1987, except for a few trips stateside, I was raised in various cities of East Germany. Many of you are young enough to ask what that was, knowing only the Germany of today and not the one prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall (http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=52.5161111111,13.3769444444&spn=0.01,0.01&q=52.5161111111,13.3769444444 (Berlin%20Wall)&t=h). My days were when Nena’s 99 Luftballons , and Falco’s (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0265920/) Rock Me Amadeus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Me_Amadeus) filled the airways of the Armed Forces Radio (http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=24.5830555556,46.8608333333&spn=1.0,1.0&q=24.5830555556,46.8608333333 (American%20Forces%20Network)&t=h) and the ever dignified Radio Luxembourg. Groups like Milli Vanilli, an emerging Scorpions, and Fine Young Cannibals (http://www.last.fm/music/Fine%2BYoung%2BCannibals) were all the rage. Among all that nostalgia (which, obviously, dates me) I consider myself fortunate to have spent so many years in the country of my ancestors, where holidays are celebrated in an entirely different manner than they are in the United States (http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=38.8833333333,-77.0166666667&spn=10.0,10.0&q=38.8833333333,-77.0166666667 (United%20States)&t=h).
http://tamelaquijas.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/xmas1.jpg?w=160&h=134 (http://tamelaquijas.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/savoring-holiday-traditions-and-counting-the-days/xmas-2/)Nuremberg’s Christkindle Markt opened this past week, celebrating the Christmas Season (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_and_holiday_season). In the plaza of a medieval church, I would scan rows and rows of stalls holding fantastic little gifts, wonderous Christmas straw stars, and strange little dolls made of prunes. Christmas crafts would be displayed in the square, surrounding the gold spire that was too heavy to place upon the church, and the chatter of voices from all over the world would echo through the cold winter air.This week was a highlight of my youth, despite temperatures being well into the teens, and I would eagerly seek fragrant and warm Glühwein (a spiced and heated red wine) and deliciously hot lebkuchen that would be served to ward off the winter chill. Oh, and don’t forget the grilled bratwurst slathered in spicy mustard and steaming hot pommes frits!
http://tamelaquijas.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/xmas2.jpg?w=140&h=98 (http://tamelaquijas.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/savoring-holiday-traditions-and-counting-the-days/xmas2/)Sometimes, especially at this time of the year, I become homesick for the country where I was raised.
As our ancestors must have done, I’ve brought the traditions of my childhood with me. On the night of December 5, Saint Nikolaus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas) and his terrifying minion assistant, Black Peter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet) will visit our house. Saint Nikolaus, attired in his regal ceremonial robes of the season (not the red and white of modern American tradition) leaves, for all good children, chocolates and other delicious sweets. His presence is full of joy for the holiday season, sweet and giving, a ray of light during the cold winter month.
Black Peter is an entirely different person. His mere presence can send a child into a crying fit. I can vouch for this from various photos taken when I was a small child where the costumed pair would walk the neighborhood in Augsburg, greeting numerous families. Black Peter, in my neighborhood, a bent and twisted man. Unwashed and unshaven, his teeth blackened and his expression terrorizing, he would leave all so-called ‘bad’ children a lump of coal and a bundle of sticks instead of the expected treat.
There pair were the epitome of light and dark, good and evil, and try to imagine this pair walking side by side!
My youngest eagerly awaits the German chocolates and cookies I hunted down through a local import store. I did manage to find a wonderous cellophane cone filled with gaily wrapped images of St. Nikolaus and various chocolate ornaments that could be hung from the tree. The surprise is hidden in the back of the freezer, hidden away from his curious eyes and waiting for that special night. As a joke, which the children have always expected and await (they actually frown when I don’t insert the gag gift) there is another package hidden– lump of ‘gum’ coal and a small gathering of twigs tied with red ribbon.
I urge everyone to take the time and savor every moment available with your family. Explore the little things that you do for the holidays, and ask what your parents and grandparents recall of this special season. Every family has a different holiday tradition with a small story behind it. These memories are things that your children or younger family members will hold close and share.
I wish everyone a joyous start to the holiday season!