As a child, winter was special as it meant that Christmas was coming. Having German born parents meant keeping all the traditions that were German. Christmas started at the beginning of December and we celebrated Christmas on the 24th.
The start of baking traditional German Christmas cookies started at the beginning of December. My brother and I also received the chocolate Lent calendars that began December 1st. Each day we opened up a section of the calendar that revealed a chocolate until the 24th. They were wonderful German chocolates that were so delicious.
My mother started baking Christmas cookies that my brother and I loved. She tried to keep ahead of us eating them all but she did manage to put a fair amount to the side for Christmas day,
The house was filled with German Christmas songs and my father had a beautiful tenor voice. He sang along with most of the songs and I was enthralled. My brother and I grew up knowing all the traditional German songs. I think “Leise reiselt der Schnee” (quietly falls the snow) is my favorite.
Christmas Eve day was magical. My brother and I were told that Saint Niklaus would quietly steal into the house to deliver the gifts as long as my brother and I were well behaved. Oh we were good. Our rooms were spotless and the basement where we kept a lot of our toys was immaculate.
My mother always had goose for our Christmas Eve dinner along with potato dumplings and peas and carrots (from their garden). Dessert was stollen and cookies. Stollen is a German fruit yeast bread. To this day, I need stollen at Christmas time.
We would clean up the dishes and the kitchen then my mother would take my brother and I downstairs to watch the television and wait for the arrival of Saint Niklaus. Yes, it was my father who brought out all the gifts and made sure that we could hear his footsteps as he moved around upstairs. He managed to give a loud ho-ho-ho then stomped out.
My brother’s and my eyes were huge as we would listen to Saint Niklaus moving around upstairs. I think we both held our breaths the whole time. Could anything be more magical than that? I thank my parents for doing this for us. The wonder and excitement is something that I will never forget. Too soon we grow up and face the harsh realities of life and my parents made certain that my brother and I could be children through and through. I thank my parents for that special magic time.
Finally my mother would say that we could go upstairs and see what was in store for us. I don’t know how but when we went into the living room, the Christmas tree seemed to be even more beautiful. My parents were factory workers and they could not afford extravagant gifts but the gifts my brother and I received were special.
We would all open our gifts and then sit back and enjoy them while we listened to more songs. We were allowed to stay up for a while and then were ushered to bed. Falling asleep those nights were easy. I am grateful that I was able to have such a childhood. How I wish it would be like this for all children and how I wish it would have lasted.