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December 24, 2006


In Germany today is called "Heiligabend" (Holy Evening) and to me it has always been the most important of the three days Christmas holiday. I remember that as a child this day was filled with expectation and excitement. A bit of dread, too, that the "Christkind" might find my sister's and my room not tidy enough to leave a present for us under the Christmas tree. For before we were invaded by Santa and his reindeers, the Christkind used to bring our presents. It was aided by "Knecht Ruprecht" who would carry along all presents in a large sack. And he had to walk on foot - no reindeers for him.

December 24 was the day when the christmas tree, which had been bought a few days earlier, would finally be taken indoors. My mother always insisted on a real tree, no fake one, and it had to be a fir and not a spruce tree. We were allowed to help my father setting it up properly and then my mother would put the decorations on it. During the first years I remember we had balls in all colours and lots of 'lametta', thin strands of aluminium foil. Over the years it finally changed to only red balls and little ornaments made from straw. Very beautiful.

And my mother also insisted on real candles on the tree. We never had an accident but now that I know a bit more about room fires it gives me a bit of a nightmare. My father always took pains to put candles only in places where they did not interfere with twigs and branches and to put them in an upright position. But he refused to take other safety measures such as putting a bucket of water close by or a small fire extinguisher It was of course lovely watching the candles on the tree burn. When my parents could afford it they bought real beeswax candles which together with the scent from the fresh fir tree gave off a wonderful aroma.

When the tree decorations were finished we would all sit down together for a cup of coffee and homemade Christmas cookies. Afterwards my sister and I were sent off to our room. We could barely await darkness for the Christkind would not come while it was still light outside. Suddenly we would heard hear a small bell jingling and rush to the living room. And there was the tree, the candles ablaze for the first time, the grown up smiling and indeed a few parcels for us under the tree. Now came the hard part: we were supposed to do a little performance, like reciting a Christmas poem or a piece of music. Only then were we give our presents a first inspection.

Traditional dinner on Heiligabend consisted of a potato salad with sausages, a favourite with us children. After dinner we all would sit down together and play games, listen to music and watch the candles on the tree burning.

These evenings have stayed in my memory as times of peace and quiet where the family got together. With the snow we had in those days and the darknes and the cold outside it felt especially good and safe to be inside together in the warmth.

I wish all readers on this blog a very merry and peaceful Christmas.

Posted by Mausi at December 24, 2006 12:07 PM

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Now that sounds like a REAL Christmas. Merry Christmas Mausi. Fröliche Weihnachten für jedermann!

Posted by: The Gray Monk at December 24, 2006 01:53 PM