The winter holidays are celebrated differently in Germany. In our family, we celebrated a blended version of both U.S. and German traditions, leaving the backgrounds on why the gifts arrive when they do and how mostly to the girls’ imagination.
As the girls are opening their gifts today in the evening of the 24th, let me give you a glimpse in the German holiday traditions of my childhood.
extended family lived within less than an hour, so the gifts could be
hidden very well from me as there were never large boxes arriving during
the weeks leading up to the holidays. On the entire 24th,
our living room, which is a separate room in my parents’ house, not an
open living / sitting space as it is in most American homes, was locked
to give the “Christkind” some privacy to prepare the room. At night,
after the church service, my grandparents came
over for dinner, and as my mom and grandma cleaned the dishes, my
grandpa would read fairy tales to me from his ancient, big fairy tale
book. Afterward, I had to go upstairs to my room to wait for the bell to
ring and tell me it was time to go into the living
room. Seeing the tree for the first time, all sparkly, lit with real
candles, was magical. The gifts usually were placed on the couch (real
candles, a small child, and wrapping paper are usually not a good
combination for a quiet evening); I looked for my pile
and started to unwrap.
On the evening of the 24th
I was always allowed to stay up late, play with my new toys, try on my
new clothes, eat cookies, and sit with my parents and grandparents. The
was usually an early one for me; I let my parents sleep in and made
myself a breakfast of holiday cookies (the best of the year!!) and went
on playing with my toys. For lunch my grandparents came over again. My
mom would either make a pork roast, turkey breast,
or sometimes even a traditional German holiday goose.
On the 26th,
we would go to the traditional get together of my mom’s family at my
other grandparents’ house, where there were more gifts, cookies and
holiday bread, and playing with
all my cousins.
the holidays as a child, but I even love it more today, as I can be the
onlooker watching our girls indulging in the holiday spirit. Giving is
truly better than receiving!