Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Long-Ago Christmas

During the first six years of my life I lived in Germany with "Oma," which is what I called my grandmother. We lived in a tiny, picturesque village in a cozy duplex apartment. It was a hilly village and I remember walking down the steep roads with Oma to visit the butcher or baker. At night we could look across our berg and see the twinkling of lights from houses dotting the hillsides, surrounded by thick, wooded forests. At Christmastime, when the landscape was covered in snow,  it was especially picture-postcard pretty.
Oma would start the Christmas preparations in early December, by baking spicy Lebkuchen and the traditional German Christmas bread, Stollen. Everything was then wrapped and put away until Christmas. A freshly cut tree would be brought in on Christmas Eve and set up on a table in one of the two bedrooms. My grandmother, who had lived through two wars, never wasted anything, so wrapping tissue was carefully folded and saved for another use. I usually received a new sweater and mittens, a woolen hat, and other warm clothing. The winters in Germany could get bitterly cold and we stayed warm with the wood stove in the kitchen. Besides clothes, I would also  receive a doll or toy and a bar of Swiss chocolate. What I really adored, however, were oranges. They were a real treat. We didn't have them at any other time of the year.

I remember the excitement of waiting for Christmas and wondering if St. Nicholas would make an appearance. My uncle would often scare us with his loud footsteps and his gruff "Ho-Ho-Ho's". Oma always disappeared around that time, and it was only later that we discovered who played the role of St. Nicholas.
The church bells would ring on Christmas Eve, and we could hear the footsteps of people crunching through the snow, on their way to midnight  Mass. Tucked into bed on a cold and wintry night, underneath the featherbeds, it was truly a 'Silent Night, Holy Night.'


GretchenJoanna said...

Thank God for grandmothers and for all the memories we can keep of the many little things they gave us that add up to LOVE.

Rita said...

I'm so glad that you have all the lovely memories of your grandmother! I remember our Christmas's in Germany with great fondness. I loved walking through the snow downtown and seeing all the shops decorated. It was such a treat. Have a wonderful Christmas!