Welcoming Weihnachten!

I wish so much time had not passed since I last posted here. It’s not for lack of wanting to, but rather… waiting. Yes, that is a key word in my life right now. During this season, many are celebrating another kind of waiting. Kids wait for Santa, and much of Christendom observes Advent, waiting for the celebration of Christ’s coming.

This Christmas season has also given me an opportunity to look backwards and reflect on the last year. Aside from some extremely difficult circumstances, I find myself looking back on a year full of blessing and new beginnings. I’ve decided to devote this Christmas post to sharing some of the joy I’ve found in incorporating German traditions back into my family’s celebration of Christmas (Weihnachten).

It seems now more than ever I’m discovering people who have a family appreciation for Old World traditions that their ancestors/relatives carried over with them, whenever they came to the United States. I never had that growing up. I knew my heritage was primarily English, German and Scottish, but other than my mom’s family’s pride in our Scottish heritage (we’re related to William Wallace (“Braveheart”)… and as I sit here, actually, I’m wearing my Wallace tartan flannel), there wasn’t much emphasis placed on any of it.

Wallace Tartan… and my favorite mug in the whole world, which still never seems to hold a large enough quantity of any hot beverage in these cold winter months!

My English-speaking ancestors have been here since the 1600s/1700s. The Germans came over in the 1800s. They met, fell in love and got married. That was that. I didn’t really know much about my family’s German background except that it was there. I remember my Grandma’s collection of steins, and picking my grandparents up from the airport after they returned from traveling there one year. She had a special shelf built all around her kitchen for all those steins!

Let me just say that I am not pretending to be an expert in any of this stuff! I am new to this and therefore constantly having to laugh at myself, as you will see below. Still, I’ve been enjoying it, and what has blessed me more is that others have shared with me that they too are enjoying it!

One of the first things I discovered was that there was something we’d already been doing for years that hailed from Germany. Advent calendars! Growing up, none of my church traditions included Advent, and at home my understanding of the season was relegated to opening up doors on a little cardboard box filled with chocolate that was “just OK.” I still loved it though, so much that I bought real wooden Advent calendars for each of my children as soon as they were born. I fill it with the good stuff, and sometimes other little gifts, ornaments, etc.

My youngest, gazing intently at his advent calendar, excited to find out what might be waiting for him behind each door.

For my personal devotions last December, I read God is in the Manger, a collection of excerpts on Advent from the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others. I also decided to make our scaled-down, 10-people-or-less (we had 7) Christmas dinner into a traditional German dinner. There was Entenbraten (roast duck), Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings), and Rotkohl (red cabbage). I also made Stollen. Unfortunately, sometimes when I try to bake something special, my oven decides not to cooperate. Somehow, two loaves of Stollen were still devoured!

A simple but beautiful dinner plate. Guten Appetit!
Stollen that was partially devoured immediately, as a bedtime snack.

It was March when the inspiration hit to write Sani. In some ways, the book was just an outgrowth of rediscovering my heritage, and it also gave me a good opportunity to keep looking into things. My curiosity was piqued after writing the 1939 “Sitzkrieg” Christmas scene in Chapters 14 & 15 and I decided that I had to have my own Christmas pyramid.

This is my delightful Christmas Pyramid from Erzgebirge-Palace, an early gift from my Aunt and Uncle.

If you look closely at the wax splattered all over the figure and his immediate surroundings, you can tell that I have had more technical difficulties with this thing than I care to admit. It’s OK, you can laugh with me, or at me! I can handle it. After blowing goop all over, I turned to my husband and said, “Somewhere in a novel, Friedrich Schmidt is laughing at me!” Which of course gave way to inspiration, and if I ever get around to chronicling the few short years of Frederick’s parents’ life together, I’m going to have to work this in somehow. These are the things a writer needs real life experience to be able to share. I can hear Friedrich (lovingly) laughing at Hannah as she too splatters candle wax all over the Christmas pyramid. He tells her to “let a real German do it…” At which point she steps aside, straightens her apron and informs him she’s going to make another batch of shortbread. (You see? Even my fictional Germans and Scots fell in love and got married.)

As an aside, if you want to read a little more about this sweet couple, I wrote a little piece back on Memorial Day about his departure for World War I. It’s more from her perspective than his. I just love them.

Along with the pyramid, I decided I wanted to make an Advent wreath this year. Partially inspired by a couple of posts I saw online, and Cate from International Desserts Blog‘s How to Christmas Like a German.

From what I’ve read, there are a range of Advent traditions even within the Church all over the world, and admittedly my wreath is non-traditional. I’ve included four candles, because the fifth is optional, although in terms of symbolism, the fifth is the most important one! I will likely modify it in order to add the fifth, or keep it somewhere close by.

Less than two weeks until Christmas!

For others like me who have little or no background in celebrating the Advent season, I’ll give a little summary of what I learned this year. The colors vary depending on denomination and tradition, but I’ve often seen three lavender, one pink and one white. There is a large outdoor display at a church nearby. The first four sit in a circle with the white candle in the middle. Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, the first purple candle is lit. It stands for the prophets and prophecies about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. It also is called the Hope candle. The next Sunday, the first two purple candles are lit. The second candle is the Bethlehem candle. It signifies Peace. The next Sunday, the pink or rose candle is also lit along with the first two. It is the Shepherds’ candle, and signifies Joy. Then the Sunday before Christmas, the fourth candle on the wreath is lit. It is the Angels’ candle and signifies Love. The white candle in the center would then represent Christmas Day, and Christ’s birth. I haven’t looked into why this is “optional,” but I read that this tradition was initiated for children in an orphanage, who could not otherwise keep track of time and kept asking how close they were getting to Christmas.

As I said, in hindsight, I would like to include the Christmas Day candle because it represents the very reason Advent is celebrated. However, there are other ways in which I try to remind the children of why we are celebrating Advent. Moving aside from German traditions for a moment, another tradition we started last year is listening to Jotham’s Journey, which was highly recommended to me in a homeschool group on Facebook (up until this year I was a homeschool mom). Admittedly, we pretty much listened to it straight thru over a few days last year, but this year we’re going along with the Advent season. The story can get a bit scary in some parts but my children are enjoying it, and it helps us keep the focus on Christ’s coming.

Something new I added this year was Zimtsterne! Here is the recipe I’ve used twice already! I actually intended to make a third batch but life got in the way. Seriously, where have these little cinnamon almond cookies been all my life?! Notably, I had the same reaction to sauerkraut and schnitzel… but that’s a post for another time.

Zimtsterne are pretty much egg whites, confectioner’s sugar, ground almonds and cinnamon!

This year, we attempted to observe Sankt Niklaus day for the first time as well. The kids were very excited to come down on December 6th and find a few treats and toys stuck in their shoes. Sankt Niklaus had no scary counterpart traveling with him, however… and honestly “he” almost forgot entirely until “he” was busy packing school lunches that morning! There are some variations in the history of the legend of Sankt Niklaus, but we read a beautiful story a few years ago about a father and his three daughters. They were poor and had lost their mother. Niklaus, wanting to help the family, threw a few bags of money in the window of their small home, and they landed right in the girls’ shoes. It was a very sweet rendition of the story and I’m hoping I may be able to find it some day amongst all our old homeschool materials.

I also looked into the Christmas pickle thing… no, it’s not actually a German tradition, although mine was made in Germany. You can go here for the article I read, and a lot of others online say basically the same thing. It’s kind of funny at any rate. Perhaps they are humoring those of us who are a few generations removed… 🥒

Finally, it wouldn’t be Christmas without music, right? Here are two of my favorites, although I could add many more:
O du fröhliche, o du selige (traditional Christmas hymn with English subtitles!)
Freue dich Welt (a fun rendition of “Joy to the World” by German group Outbreak Band feat. YADA Worship and O’bros)

And now, I leave you with one more reason to laugh with me (or at me). I was very excited about painting this sign, and worked hard to find a font online that I absolutely loved, and then copy it to perfection… except that in my zeal I did not realize that I had spelled “Frohe Weihnachten” wrong when I input it on the computer. I considered making a game out of it the next time we have a Christmas gathering, the first person to spell Weihnachten correctly gets to take it home as a prize. I’m kind of attached to it now, though, and will probably keep it as a conversation piece!

A labor of love that happens to be missing an ‘h’

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story of “Welcoming Weihnachten” into our home. As I sit here now, it will be Christmas Eve (Heiligabend) in 1 week, so I may have a few more stories to tell after we wrap up this holiday season. Until then, Frohe Weihnachten und Frohes neues Jahr!

5 thoughts on “Welcoming Weihnachten!

  1. What a wonderful blog my dear sister. I enjoyed reading every word and so glad to learn new things as well. My maiden name is Teuchert. Misspelled at Ellis Island it was actually Teichert. The Austrian Hungarian Empire is where my great grandparents immigrated from in the early 1900’s. I have some things I would love to share with you one day. Have a wonderful and Merry Christmas my dear friend. Love Debbie Gonzalez

    Liked by 1 person

  2. stopping by to GOD BLESS YOU from sweden -Living Hope
    28 nov 2021
    Kingdom people
    Advent
    hope
    A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, Canyon Lake, Texas.
    The Lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Advent are here.

    If you were here two weeks ago, the gospel reading for today may have sounded familiar. We read Mark’s version of Jesus telling of the destruction of the Temple then and today, we continue Jesus’ sermon from Luke’s point of view. I feel like I could give the exact same sermon. But I won’t. So let me just help you remember where we are in The Story:

    Jesus and the disciples have been spending time in the Temple complex in Jerusalem and one of the disciples points out the grandeur of the Temple building. Jesus tells them that the time will come when not one stone will be left on another and he paints a rather terrifying picture of what is to come: famine and war and division but offers the hope that by trusting God we will endure.

    Today, we read Luke’s continuation of this teaching: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” And just as we hear these warnings as a description of our current situation, so did the disciples. The world was and is a frightening place with wars and natural disasters and division and suffering.

    The news tells us to be afraid and to be worried. I saw a meme this past week that reminded us of when the news was the news back in the days of Walter Cronkite. News programs were half an hour long and had just enough time to present the facts of what was going on. Mr. Cronkite didn’t give his opinion, he just reported the events of the day. Now we have entire so called ‘news’ channels that have to fill air time 24/7 so they fill the time with what makes us watch: anxiety inducing broadcasting that isn’t news at all but a way to spread the ‘rumors of wars’ Jesus warns us about. Their goal isn’t to keep us informed and knowledgeable but to get the highest ratings and the most advertising dollars.

    Jesus tells us to lift our heads, look up, away from the fear driven distractions so that we can see him, so that we can know the true meaning of power and glory of God’s kingdom.

    Jesus gives us the example of a fig tree. For us in the Hill Country of Texas we could substitute a peach tree. When we see the leaves come in the spring, we know that summer is already near. God’s plan for God’s creation includes the continuous rhythm of new life. But new life requires the old to pass away. The tree needs the barrenness of winter to bring about the new fruit. Or perhaps, in place of a peach tree we can think about bluebonnets and wildflowers. For these to blanket our fields, we need lots of rain in the fall and a cold winter, two things we aren’t always grateful for in Texas. But think about how excited we get when we see the first bluebonnet of the season! We tell everyone we see and we take long drives to find them in all of God’s glory. We don’t say “oh, the world is too harsh, I can’t enjoy the beauty.” We go looking for it!

    And so, when we see the suffering in this world, we are to say, “the Kingdom of God is near.” Not that the end is near but that God is near, with us, Emmanuel.

    Jesus isn’t talking about some Pollyanna version of toxic positivity where we ignore the suffering in this world, but the acknowledgement of God’s glory because we know Whose we are: God’s beloved children and we trust and know that God is with us always, so that when we are troubled by the pain and suffering in this world we are, like Jesus, moved with compassion to ease it, not just for ourselves but for everyone.

    And at the same time, we admit that God is God and we are not and so fixing the world isn’t our job nor our purpose. God has promised to restore all things and we have to let him do it his way. Jesus tells us to be on guard, to watch, to take care not to let our hearts be weighed down and dulled with the cares of this life, with the anxieties of day-to-day life. We aren’t to let fear guide us but Hope.

    When Jesus tells us to pray for the strength to make it through, he isn’t saying to ask for self-sufficiency but the courage and strength to follow Jesus even when the world says we are fools for doing so and to pray for the endurance to keep our eyes on God and not be distracted by the world saying “be afraid, take what you want, look out for yourself.”

    What comes to mind as I read Jesus’ words is what has become known as the Serenity Prayer. Did you know that the original version was written by the American theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr was a prominent public voice in the first half of the twentieth century and spoke and wrote of the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy.

    He penned the beginnings of his famous prayer in 1932, “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”

    His final version was published in 1951 and reads:
    God, give me grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things
    which should be changed,
    and the Wisdom to distinguish
    the one from the other.
    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
    And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
    Amen.

    Life in God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven isn’t a competition of self-sufficiency and individual strength but a companionable journey in which together with God’s help we follow Jesus toward that time when we all stand face to face with God.

    Our worldview as Jesus’ Followers is a kingdom view. The kingdom to which we belong is not of this world. It is not made of bricks and wood and not an authority that finds power in oppression but in the loving, life-giving, and liberating ways of God. But God’s Kingdom is definitely in this world because we are the embodied Kingdom of God.

    Today is the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of the new year in the church calendar. So, happy New Year, how was your Thanksgiving? Wait, what? Where’s Christmas? It’s coming but not yet.

    We begin Advent with the tension of the theme of hope and scripture readings about disaster. Advent is the season of expectant waiting, not dreadful waiting but expectant, hope-filled waiting because we trust and believe God’s promises. We are to stand up and raise our faces toward him, without fear. God will set all of creation into proper order as he intended from the beginning before we came along and decided that the one fruit that we could take for ourselves was better than the abundance God had provided for us.

    In the very first Advent season, when Mary and Joseph waited on the birth of Jesus, having been entrusted with bearing and raising God’s Son, I’m sure they had moments of fear and dread. And they hoped, believing God’s enduring Word.

    We aren’t called to fix this world but to shine the light of God’s love into the darkness so that others can see Jesus coming in great glory, not someday, but now. How we love is how we reveal God’s glory to the world, keeping our eyes on Jesus so that others see him, too.

    And we pray, continuously. As an Advent activity, if you haven’t already made an Advent plan for home, I invite you to take the collect for today and read it each day as you light a candle in your Advent wreath.

    Let’s practice it together. Turn to the top of page 3 in your bulletin and pray with me:
    “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

    Do it in the morning or before a meal. If you don’t have an Advent wreath at home, just circle up 4 candles with whatever you have. Read this prayer each day, lighting one candle. And then do the same next week with next week’s prayer and two candles and the next with three, and the next with four. Keep your expectation sharp. Hope. Pray. And keep your head up and your eyes on Jesus. Amen.

    1
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    suzanamonika
    suzanamonika
    just nu
    Apparizioni Mariane
    8 m ·
    BEATA VERGINE della MEDAGLIA MIRACOLOSA
    La Beata Vergine Maria della Medaglia Miracolosa dal 1894 si festeggia, al termine d’una novena, il 27 novembre alle ore 17, ovvero, come recita la supplica «proprio nel giorno ed ora benedetta, da te prescelta per la manifestazione della tua Medaglia». La novena perpetua di norma si tiene ogni sabato, o almeno al 27 di ogni mese, con la recita integrale del rosario: tre corone, almeno fino all’introduzione dei misteri luminosi, voluti da Giovanni Paolo II nel 2002, poiché i 15 misteri gaudiosi, dolorosi e gloriosi corrisponderebbero ai 15 anelli che la Madonna portava durante l’apparizione a suor Labouré.
    La Madonna apparve a Santa Caterina Labourè presso la Rue du Bac a Parigi (Francia – 1830):
    Allora si fece sentire una voce che mi disse: ”Fate coniare una medaglia su questo modello; tutte le persone che la porteranno, riceveranno grandi grazie specialmente portandola al collo; le grazie saranno abbondanti per le persone che la porteranno con fiducia… ”.
    Riguardo i raggi che provengono dalle mani di Maria, la Vergine stessa rispose:
    ”Sono il simbolo delle Grazie che io spargo sulle persone che me le domandano”.
    Pertanto è bene portare la medaglia e pregare la Madonna, chiedendo grazie soprattutto spirituali!
    A Medjugorje la Regina della Pace ha nominato la medaglia miracolosa in un messaggio dato a Marija presso la Croce blu il 27 Novembre del 1989.
    La Vergine Maria le disse: ”Desidero che in questi giorni preghiate in modo particolare per la salvezza delle anime. Oggi è il giorno della Medaglia Miracolosa e desidero che preghiate in particolare per la salvezza di tutti coloro che portano la Medaglia. Desidero che la diffondiate e la portiate perché si salvi un gran numero di anime, ma in particolare desidero che preghiate”.
    SUPPLICA ALLA MADONNA DELLA MEDAGLIA MIRACOLOSA
    Da recitarsi alle 17 del 27 novembre, festa della Medaglia Miracolosa, in ogni 27 del mese e in ogni urgente necessità.
    O Vergine Immacolata, noi sappiamo che sempre ed ovunque sei disposta ad esaudire le preghiere dei tuoi figli esuli in questa valle di pianto, ma sappiamo pure che vi sono giorni ed ore in cui ti compiaci di spargere più abbondantemente i tesori delle tue grazie. Ebbene, o Maria, eccoci qui prostrati davanti a te, proprio in quello stesso giorno ed ora benedetta, da te prescelta per la manifestazione della tua Medaglia.
    Noi veniamo a te, ripieni di immensa gratitudine ed illimitata fiducia, in quest’ora a te sì cara, per ringraziarti del gran dono che ci hai fatto dandoci la tua immagine, affinché fosse per noi attestato d’affetto e pegno di protezione. Noi dunque ti promettiamo che, secondo il tuo desiderio, la santa Medaglia sarà il segno della tua presenza presso di noi, sarà il nostro libro su cui impareremo a conoscere, seguendo il tuo consiglio, quanto ci hai amato e ciò che noi dobbiamo fare, perché non siano inutili tanti sacrifici tuoi e del tuo divin Figlio. Sì, il tuo Cuore trafitto, rappresentato sulla Medaglia, poggerà sempre sul nostro e lo farà palpitare all’unisono col tuo. Lo accenderà d’amore per Gesù e lo fortificherà per portar ogni giorno la propria croce dietro a Lui. Questa è l’ora tua, o Maria, l’ora della tua bontà inesauribile, della tua misericordia trionfante, l’ora in cui facesti sgorgare per mezzo della tua Medaglia, quel torrente di grazie e di prodigi che inondò la terra. Fai, o Madre, che quest’ora, che ti ricorda la dolce commozione del tuo Cuore, la quale ti spinse a venirci a visitare e a portarci il rimedio di tanti mali, fai che quest’ora sia anche l’ora nostra: l’ora della nostra sincera conversione, e l’ora del pieno esaudimento dei nostri voti.
    Tu che hai promesso, proprio in quest’ora fortunata, che grandi sarebbero state le grazie per chi le avesse domandate con fiducia: volgi benigna i tuoi sguardi alle nostre suppliche. Noi confessiamo di non meritare le tue grazie, ma a chi ricorreremo, o Maria, se non a te, che sei la Madre nostra, nelle cui mani Dio ha posto tutte le sue grazie? Abbi dunque pietà di noi.
    Te lo domandiamo per la tua Immacolata Concezione e per l’amore che ti spinse a darci la tua preziosa Medaglia. O Consolatrice degli afflitti, che già ti inteneristi sulle nostre miserie, guarda ai mali da cui siamo oppressi. Fai che la tua Medaglia sparga su di noi e su tutti i nostri cari i tuoi raggi benefici: guarisca i nostri ammalati, dia la pace alle nostre famiglie, ci scampi da ogni pericolo. Porti la tua Medaglia conforto a chi soffre, consolazione a chi piange, luce e forza a tutti.
    Ma specialmente permetti, o Maria, che in quest’ora solenne ti domandiamo la conversione dei peccatori, particolarmente di quelli, che sono a noi più cari. Ricordati che anch’essi sono tuoi figli, che per essi hai sofferto, pregato e pianto. Salvali, o Rifugio dei peccatori, affinché dopo di averti tutti amata, invocata e servita sulla terra, possiamo venirti a ringraziare e lodare eternamente in Cielo. Cosi sia. Salve Regina Mostra meno
    Tomislav Ivančić
    6 tim
    ·
    ”Advent je vrijeme kada dolazi Spasitelj svijeta,
    ono te podsjeća da Bog kuca na vrata tvoga srca.
    Je li tvoj život hodanje ususret Bogu ili je tvoj život stajanje te ne ideš nikamo. Jer ljudi koji stoje u životu, oni se užasno boje života i budućnosti. Oni dok stoje, vide da nisu ništa učinili i da njihov život se ne ostvaruje nego gubi. Oni vide da su krivi što u dopustili da vrijeme teče i to prazno, da im dani prolaze, a da nisu ništa učinili za čovječanstvo, društvo, domovinu i obitelj i oni pate.
    Nada zahtjeva zakorači, počni činiti i djelovati.
    Nada je trčanje, vjera je stajanje na startu, nada je trčanje od starta prema cilju, a ljubav je ulaženje u cilj to jest postizanje cilja.”
    (Minuta za tebe)
    Duhovniportal.com
    9 tim
    ·
    PRVA NEDJELJA DOŠAŠĆA
    Danas smo zapalili jednu svijeću na adventskom vijencu. To je jedno malo svjetlo koje stoji nasuprot mučnom i tamnom svijetu. Palimo to svjetlo na svijeći jer smo ljudi nade, jer smo ljudi čija se vjera očituje u iščekivanju i spremnosti za dolazak našeg Gospodina. On je naš gospodar, naš Bog, naš spasitelj i trebali bismo uvijek biti spremni za Njega. Njega čekamo kao što sluge čekaju gospodara, ali možda je ljepša slika djece koja čekaju svoga oca, zaručnice koja čeka svoga zaručnika, izgubljene ovce koja se nada svome pastiru jer u nemoći čekamo Onoga koji će nam pomoći.
    Zato je naše iščekivanje vrijeme radosti. Tu radost lijepo izražava himan monastičke liturgije: Gledaj! Vladar zemlje će doći, Gospodin koji će s nas skinuti teško breme sužanjstva. Gospodin će doći brzo, neće zakasniti. Gospodin će rasvijetliti i najtamnija područja. Moramo prepoznati tu žurnost u malenom plamenu naše svijeće. Upalili smo svijeću jer znamo da je Kristov dolazak povezan s našim trudom oko izgradnje kraljevstva nebeskog. Zapaliti svijeću, nahraniti gladnoga, pohoditi bolesnoga, pomiriti zaraćene, moliti za obraćenje, pozdraviti usamljene i zaboravljene – radeći sve to požurujemo Njegov dolazak.
    Župa Majka Božja Lurdska Zagreb
    10 tim
    ·
    Čekam te na misi u 7.30, 9, 10, 11.30, 17 i 19h.
    tvoj Isus ❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

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