according to Wikipedia, this is the German tradition of Christmas Eve. Check it out.
In some families the whole family comes together; in others December 24 is celebrated only by the close family, whereas the larger family (grandparents, uncles & aunts, etc.) will visit on the first or second Day of Christmas (December 25 and 26 respectively).
Before the Bescherung (gift giving) begins, many Germans go to church. Christmas masses/services often last around one hour. Families with children go to a children's mass which is usually shorter and dramatised with a Krippenspiel, which is a nativity play.
While everyone else is at church, one of the adults prepares the Christmas tree and turns on electric lights or lights decorative candles, and puts on festive Christmas music and places the gifts under the tree.
When the family comes back from the church, the living room is locked. The children must wait to enter into the prepared room until a little bell rings. This bell marks the departure of the Christ Child (Christkind) who, according to tradition, brings the presents (instead of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus). Revealing the decorated Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree) with all the presents is a big surprise. For the Bescherung, the only light comes from the Christmas tree lights (in the past real candles, today electric lights rather than candles).
Many families will sing traditional Christmas carols or play music on flutes and/or guitars around the tree before opening the gifts.
The gifts lie under the tree, wrapped in colorful paper, and the children unwrap them before the big Christmas feast. Adults may also share gifts while the children are opening theirs. Many families also prepare decorated paper bags or carton plates (Weihnachtsteller) for each of the children and adults. These are full of treats and are often in the shape of angels or Santa Claus, who is called Weihnachtsmann in German.
All of this, to the letter, applies to the Christmas Eves of my childhood. I never enjoyed the church bit (hey, c'mon, what child does?), but the little silvery sound of the bell, the smell of the tree (remember- I am conservative, its gotta be the real thing... or it did have to be...), the soft glow of the lights in the tinsel (red one year, purple the next) and even the flute, played enthusiastically by yours truly, were cherished.
I used to get two Bescherungen, one with my grandparents who technically raised me and one with my Mum and her partner who lived two flights of stairs above us in the same house. My Mum always had "the same tree"... the tree itself, of course, changed from year to year, but the decorations never did. To this day, they did not.
She, in fact, is the only person I know who still uses real candles in her tree. She might only light them on the actual Christmas Eve and substitute them with electrical lights for the rest of the season, but there are CANDLES in her tree. I remember the smell of real bees wax like I had only experienced it 5 minutes ago.
Her tree was and is a feast for my sore, tired eyes. It has been years since I last saw it, but please spare a minute to admire MUMS CHRISTMAS TREE 2009.
All the gifts are arranged around it, and on the wall you see my silly face under a silly hat overlooking the scene.
Her apartment is tiny, and the tree is always quite big. I know that green sucker reminds her of years gone by just as much as any Christmas tree reminds me of her.
I don't really care if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Ashura or Diwali... nothing, all of the above or something entirely different... I would love for you to use 5 minutes today to sit back and gather your favourite memories. Sit back and unwrap them like a really expensive piece of chocolate. If you are on a diet, unfold them like the first love letter you ever received, carefully as to not tear the slightly age- worn paper.
Look at what is right in front of you, and then read between th lights. Remember smells, sounds, colours, whatever makes those memories special for you.
When your 5 minutes are up, pick up the phone, grab a pen or open your mail program. Get in touch with somebody nice. Mom, niece, Granddad, the wicked witch of the east, somebody who unexpectedly dropped you a line or two, your divorce lawyer, your vet... it doesn't matter.
I have come to the conclusion that all this holiday stuff really is about the fuzzy feeling inside. And I don't mean the eggnog. Go and share it, it has a tendency to grow. Bugger, eh?
Thanks for following me on my little adventure as far as you did. I hope you will keep traipsing along with me as you guys give me almost as fuzzy, warm and, well, LOVED a feeling as my favourite Christmas memories do. Your support has been amazing, and I love and appreciate each and one of you strange people who keep stopping by for inexplicable reasons to work their way through my ramblings.
Happy Holidays, everybody- Frohe Weihnachten!