Growing up, my parents encorporated many German traditions into our lives. I remember seeing a fresh Advent wreath on the dining room table and always knowing it was the start of the Christmas season. Though we are not Catholic, each Sunday in December we would light a candle on our wreath and let it burn for a bit as we began to read and discuss The Christmas Story. I think I'm going to make an advent wreath and add this tradition to my family's list next year. I recall (though we often argued and fought) this being a particuarly special tradition full of spirit, knowledge, and family love.
We also put out our shoes on the night of December 5th for Nikolaustag (Saint Nikolaus Day). If we were good, we would find our shoes filled with lovely treats like chocolates and fruits the following morning. If we were bad (or naughty - not that I had any experience with that whatsoever), we would find things like coal and switches. I remember one year where my parents had Sankt Nikolaus and Swartze Peter (Black Peter was his sidekick who delivered switches and coal to the naughty boys and girls) actually come to our home to visit. Of course, it was friends of theirs, but I'll never forget the excitement of that day. Such fond memories!
Music has always been a very VERY important part of my life. In fact, I get all misty and teary eyed when I think about Christmas and music. My family is INCREDIBLY musical and always has been. My parents have been choir directors, pianists, singers and performers for as long as I can remember. They've instilled a deep love for music within all of my siblings and I. My all time favorite thing to do at Christmas time, aside from spending time with my family, is singing with my family. Absolutely, without a doubt! We each have "our parts" memorized to specific songs. We each know the different harmonies and tunes which work beautifully together. When we attend church together, I often cry when I get to sing with my family (even if it's in the pews with the congregation) because I love hearing our harmonies and voices together.
Of course, what would Christmas be without our special traditional Christmas foods?! My mother has a knack for cooking like no one else I know. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without my mom's Beste Cherry Christmas Braided Bread. Each of the males in our family have been known to eat full loaves by themselves - it's rich, but oh so good! Mother has given me permission to share her recipe with you, and I will once I have time to give it a good post - which it so deserves! My mother also makes awesome Fantasy Fudge. It's the original recipe which used to be found on the side of Marshmallow Fluff jars, but they've gone and changed it into something which is totally off from the original. She was kind enough to make Steve his own pan of it when she was here before Thanksgiving, and I've not heard the end of it yet!
Family Photos have also almost always been a family tradition too. One year, as many other Am-Berliner families did, we spray painted our holiday greeting onto the Berlin Wall. This particular year, we sprayed on the east side of the East Berlin wall (versus the West Berlin wall - did you know there were actually two Berlin Walls?). This is a definite photo to treasure forever and ever! I recently found a bag full of Berlin Wall pieces - holy cow! Holy asbestos batman! (No worries, into a mason jar they went!)
Christmas is definitely my favorite time of year. Though Steve and I don't have any children of our own, we have a few traditions of our own. We' ve managed to have photos taken to use for our Christmas card (much to Steve's annoyance!). We always invite our family (the kids - Thomas and Kimberlee) to join us with their significant others and/or friends. Wel always also invite our friends who don't have family close by to join us on Christmas Day for dinner. We both have our own advent calendars (like we're seriously supposed to share chocolate? helloooo). We have stockings hung for everyone we are expecting on Christmas Day, and then a few extras "just in case" we have additional guests. Every guest has a stocking on Christmas Day at our home. Now, they're not full of deep meaningful and pricey items. Generally, it's things like socks, an orange, pens, post-its, and other little things that can be or are needed through out the year. Even though it's a small token, I know it has meant a lot when we have guests over (especially if they are alone for Christmas) and they have a stocking waiting for them. It is always so nice to make someone feel extra special on Christmas.
There are loads of other traditions my family has participated in over the years, but these are the ones that stick out most. Thanks for inviting me to play, Jill! I've really enjoyed it!
Thinking of family Christmas photos, I can't decide which of these two I want to use this year and could certainly use a bit of guidance from my blogging friends. Which do you think is better of BOTH of us - #1 or #2?