Christmas was coming! But this first Christmas season was to be different. Our whole family got the flu and we were all seriously sick for well over a week. All our lives the Lord had provided and this was no different. He used special angels to supply our needs. I recall members of the church stopping by the house, dropping off bundles and bags filled with groceries and gifts. How grateful we were! We enjoyed everything to the fullest - once we were well again. The generosity of the people of our church, their friendship, their love and care for us still brings tears to my eyes. Even though our first Christmas in the new country seemed like not a good start, there were better times to come.
In future years at church at this time of year, our Sunday School classes practiced hard and put on a fabulous program. Recitations, children’s choir carols, and musical pieces all made for a lovely Christmas Eve. At the close of the program every child received a goody bag – with apples, oranges, walnuts, a small gift, and yes, chocolate and candy. The bag must have weighed at least 2 lbs.! (My brother was so frugal that he still had some of those candies at Easter.) After the program was the long walk home to continue the celebrations there!
Our home would be decorated with a small fresh cut spruce tree. Dad and mom usually waited until the 24th because then we could get a little tree at a huge discount rate! Among the bright and glittery baubles were hung many handcrafted straw stars, paper stars and gilded nuts.
To make the gilded nuts, dad separated the walnut halves carefully. We ate some of the nuts, saved others for baking, and then glued the two pieces of shells back together, finally painting them gold! What fun we had decorating the house. We also had a few individual candleholders brought over from Germany that got clipped on the tip of many tree branches. Wax candles were inserted and these candles were lit that first evening. Imagine the fire hazard that would have been, but we never had an incident, thank the Lord! The tree always looked magnificent in its simplicity and homemade creativity. Advent and Christmas Eve – evening - were always memorable, meaningful times of each year.
Even though we had just come home for a long Christmas program, dad would still read the story of Christ’s Birth and we would sing more carols before we opened the gifts to one another. Presents were usually things we truly needed! And yes, we actually LOVED getting something new to wear. Only one person at a time opened their gifts while the rest observed, and were given a fabulous opportunity to learn patience. There was a procedure to unwrapping gifts too! The wrapping paper had to be carefully removed and folded; for use again next Christmas. None of this ill-mannered, rudely ripping off the wrappings to get to the gift, and creating a pile of garbage in the living room! Dad and mom were the original recyclers I’m sure!
We also got a BUNTEN TELLER – a festive goody plate, which was ours alone to consume as we wished. On it were samplings of mom’s delicious SPRITZ cookies, HONIGKUCHEN, STOLLEN and PFEFFERNUESSE, as well as walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, some chocolates, mandarin oranges and apples!
We got to stay up later than usual, but it was up early Christmas morning to attend the worship service at church. Each family then had their own special dinner, for us it was usually ROULADEN – with mashed potatoes, gravy, red cabbage, a salad and something special for dessert. Boxing Day was then usually a day to relax and visit other relatives in town, go tobogganing until our cheeks were rosy. We’d come home chilled to the bone! To warm up we enjoyed a steaming cup of delicious cocoa and munched on leftovers! Sitting around the kitchen table we finished the evening off with family games.
A wonderful time and great memories!!