How did your parents and grandparents celebrate this special time of the year? How do you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, and the Holiday Season today?
Christmas traditions: first memories
My first Christmas memories date back to my grandparents’ apartment in Freiburg. The earliest Christmas picture predates these memories. It was taken in Bad Säckingen where I was born. I combined it with a picture of my son Nicholas taken in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Both little boys are admiring the candles. Yes, real candles on a real tree! For the candles to be placed, the tree had to have its natural shape with the branches offset and not sheared or pruned. Until last year, we reused the oldfashioned tinsel, made in Germany. They still make tinsel, now lead-free, but it is not heavy enough to hang straight.
Oh Kinderlein kommet…
In my grandfather’s apartment, the room with the Christmas tree was off-limits for children until Christmas eve. After the traditional meal of carp and boiled potatoes, the evening began with the ringing of a tiny bell. Then the living room door opened with one of my aunts playing on the upright piano “Oh Kinderlein kommet” (Oh come all you children). My eyes went straight to the base of the Christmas tree because that’s where the gifts had been arranged. I tried to guess their content by their size and shape. The next thirty minutes seemed to be the longest minutes of my childhood. First, my grandfather read the Christmas story, then somebody played the flute and we sang “Oh Tannenbaum” and many more German Christmas carols.
A break with tradition
Two years ago we bought the largest Christmas tree ever. It was almost ten feet tall. We decorated in the family tradition, not much different from the trees of my childhood. Last year, we spent Christmas in Columbus with my wife’s family and we are doing the same this year. Before we left our Seattle home, we decided to buy our first artificial tree – strings of white lights included. These days, they don’t look so artificial anymore. Can you tell from the picture below?
First published by Gerhard as his December 2019 View from the Street Newsletter.