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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas







I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  I am so tickled by all the nice comments I got on my husbands return home.  Seriously, I am not the emotional type, but while grocery shopping yesterday, I got teary-eyed just thinking about the next days to come.  I feel so unbelievably fortunate to have him home during the Christmas break, and I think about all the families that have to celebrate without their loved ones.  My warmest wishes to those families. <3


Of course, once again my husband and I are debating the american vs. german traditions of Christmas, and when Santa should come.  I want Santa to come in the evening.  I want the kids to be dressed up in their cute little Christmas outfits, and the camera to take some lovely pictures.  So to help us out, I gathered some information on the german Christmas traditions.  It brought back some nice memories, and I hope you enjoy it.  Of course, no matter how you celebrate Christmas, just have fun with your loved ones, and enjoy the moment.  In the end, that is all that counts.  Merry Christmas everyone.


The German Christmas Tree
The German Tannenbaum is usually put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, though some families opt to erect their tree during the Advent season. Traditionally, the Germans used the fir tree, but nowadays the spruce is widely used. Decorations may include tinsel, glass balls or straw ornaments and sweets. A star or an angel tops the Tannenbaum, and beneath the tree, a nativity scene might be set up and the presents next to it. Germans also usually continue to use real lit candles instead of electric lights on the tree.


The first known Christmas tree was set up in 1419 in Freiburg by the town bakers, who decorated the tree with fruits, nuts, and baked goods, which the children were allowed to remove and eat on New Year's Day. The town guilds and associations first brought evergreens inside their guild houses and decorated them with apples and sweets. Candles were eventually added to the decorations. Already since the Middle Ages, ordinary Germans had been bringing yew, juniper, mistletoe, holly, evergreen boughs - any plant that maintained its green color through the lifeless and dreary winter months - into their homes. Even in areas where forests were sparse, the tradition took hold; people in Northern Germany, for instance, used Christmas pyramids (Weihnachtspyramiden) in lieu of Christmas trees. The pyramid form was created using sticks that were then decorated with fir branches. By 1800, the custom of bringing a tree into the home was firmly established in many German-speaking regions and continued to spread throughout Europe, and eventually, around the world. The custom was brought to North America by German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 18th century.


The Tannenbaum is taken down on New Year's Day or on January 6th, Three King's Day, at which time the children can ransack the tree for the sweets and treats that decorated it.


Christmas Eve


December 24th begins as a regular workday. But by 2:00 pm, often even earlier, businesses close in preparation for the holiday celebration, a large part of which occurs on Christmas Eve in Germany. Prior to the evening feast, is the presentation of the tree.  While the children are occupied with another room (usually by Father) Mother brings out the Christmas tree and decorates it with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angels, tinsel, family treasures and candles or lights. The presents are placed under the tree. Somewhere, close to the bright display are laid brilliantly decorated plates for each family member, loaded with fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and biscuits. When all is ready a bell is rung as a signal for the children to enter this Christmas fantasy room. Carols are sung, sometimes sparklers are lit, the Christmas story is read and gifts are opened.The traditional evening meal includes carp and potato salad.The tradition of opening gifts onHeiliger Abend (rather than on December 6th in honor of St. Nicholas) was started by Martin Luther in the 16th century in favor of a celebration that honored Christ rather than a Catholic saint.
On Christmas Eve, German families - whether Protestant or Catholic and even those who are not regular church-goers - often attend mass or a church service. While the mass traditionally takes place at midnight, in recent times the services have moved into the earlier evening hours.

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