When I was a child, the holidays never rang with the voices of grandparents or the exuberant shouts of younger relatives, and my parents rarely mentioned Weihnachten, the name for Christmas in Germany.
Luckily, I have cousins who grew up with German traditions. This year they were kind enough to share their memories with me.
Chris, my paternal cousin, wrote that in her hometown the Christmas season started on Advent, and the making of a pine wreath holding four red candles. Her family lit one candle each Sunday until Christmas Day. Santa Claus arrived on December 6, when the children woke up to find chocolates, fruits, and nuts in the clean boots they’d left by the door.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Chris’s parents decorated the tree with real candles and everyone sang Silent Night. More gifts were opened, brought not by Santa, but by the Christ Child. Later everyone enjoyed a dinner of knockwurst, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes.
From my mother’s corner of Germany, Monika wrote their family was very religious. On Christmas Eve Day, they fasted until noon, had a small lunch and then their mother decorated the tree-also with real candles. Afterwards everyone prayed a rosary, gifts were handed out and delightful stories were told.
For both families, a walk to Midnight Mass capped this evening of happy events. In the church, a beautiful manger scene greeted the congregation, and the organ rang out with hymns and carols.
First and second Christmas Days followed and involved more worship services, delicious food, visits with grandparents, and theater programs featuring children in some of the starring roles.
My cousins sent me many more memories, and I wish I could include them all, but there’s only enough space left to say–Thank you both for sharing. Finally, I have an idea of what Christmas with grandparents and cousins would have been like.
Happy Holidays everyone!