“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la, la la la la.”
I remember as child loving Christmas. Christmas is always different for the children. No stress filled shopping days, no Christmas cards or packages to get in the post, just the wee-in-your-pants level of excitement waiting for Santa Claus, and the unadulterated joy to find out that he DID exist and had found it in his heart to skip the coal this year, despite the incident with the cat!
Christmas as a young adult on my own was still joyful. I enjoyed writing my own Christmas cards, decorated my own apartment, and baking cookies while listening to sappy Christmas music. Bruce Springsteen’s Merry Christmas Baby rockin’ out on my ghetto blaster. I looked forward to shopping and enjoyed the ‘Christmas spirit’ in the shopping malls of Minneapolis where I lived after high school.
I moved to Germany at age 19 and didn’t spent Christmas with my family more than once or twice in the coming decade. It was there that something shifted in my view of the holiday season.
Christmas in Germany is the holiday personified. Each town throughout the country has its own Weihnachtsmarkt. Festive enclaves of vendors selling roasted nuts, brats, gluwein, beer, crepes, cookies, and other delectables that you have no hope of resisting…and why should you? Many of these treats ONLY come out at Christmas. The most interactive and potentially dangerous is the Feuerzangenbowle… a holiday drink that consists of rum, a cone of sugar, more rum, and fire. Amateur pyrotechnics and alcohol are always good family fun!
Evenings were spent walking into town to meet up with friends and co-workers for a mug (or four) of gluhwein. Standing round little tables, bundled up against the cold, rounds of the steaming mulled wine were drunk while conversation bantered back and forth about ski trips, holiday parties, and local gossip – who’s dating who, and the like. Evening after evening was filled this way. These were great, informal, gatherings of friends and family – a sort of winter Oktoberfest with a little less public drunkenness.
When I returned to the States, I found myself to be much more Bah Humbug than Deck the Walls. Consumerism was the name of the game and the fact that three people were KILLED in this year’s Black Friday Walmart dash for cheap dvd players leaves me cold. The last Christmas I spent with family was an ‘enjoyable’ morning of consumerism unwrapped and then my mother was off to cook all day and my father either down to the office or on with the football. Eat. Clean up. Watch a movie. No time spent playing games or chatting by the fire. Lots of lip service to family and tradition, but not in a way that seems authentic.
Now that I have a daughter, and live in the mountains, Christmas morning is spent skiing or sledding, followed by lots of hot chocolate and a hearty breakfast. Given my way, I wouldn’t exchange gifts with anyone in my family – but I may have a revolt on my hands with that one. Especially with the four year old that is in her very own, wee-my-pants-I’m-so-excited-that Santa-is-coming stage.
So we’ll leave cookies and carrots out of Santa and his reindeer…but I’ll be drinking gluhwein, listening to Kings of Leon (definitely NOT holiday appropriate) and spending my holiday making my own traditions whatever they turn out to be.
Fa la la la, la la la la