"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there!"
On a cold dark night in early December, 1965, there was an unexpected knock on the door of my family's apartment at our base housing in Phorzheim, Germany.
A dark, mysterious white-bearded man draped in a flowing red cape swept into our living room, his head covered with a tall polka-dotted red hat. Across his back was a long sheath filled with branches and twigs. In one hand he carried a tall miter leaving his other hand free to point and inquire, "Have you been a good little girl?"
As St. Nicholas leaned in close to my sister she let out an awful scream.
No amount of fruit and nuts was going to save that night. St. Nick was quietly escorted from the apartment grateful that tradition demanded short visits with each child.
Christmas in Germany was a wonderful experience for our young military family! O.K., maybe not the St. Nick incident, but his visit remains a cherished childhood memory. Stationed in countries where American television was not a part of our nightly routine we relied on family traditions and new friends to celebrate Christmas abroad.
At home, my mother baked and cooked all of our favorite Southern holiday treats. She made pralines, Divinity, fruit cakes, decorated sugar cookies, pies, cakes and my personal favorite, fudge! Neighbors and friends often dropped by with gifts of American and German Christmas specialties.
There were fanciful Gingerbread hearts, spicy Pfeffernuss cookies, and Stollen, a traditional bread-like cake filled with Marzipan. I delighted in the brightly wrapped foil Christmas ornaments of German chocolate and enjoyed an occasional delicious foil-wrapped chocolate bottle filled with German liqueurs. Colorful Advent Calendars filled with tiny chocolates behind the windows of candlelit houses were a special treat and uncovering the tiny treats each day filled our holiday home with great anticipation
There were parties throughout the season and I remember those happy times when our apartment was filled with adult laughter. Friends of the family stationed in other parts of Germany would visit on weekends, adding to the merriment and fun-filled weekends.
Unlike the German tradition of decorating a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve my parents held with their own tradition of ordering us a tree and having it delivered to our apartment about ten days before Christmas.
My mother would lay out the boxes of shiny ornaments and lights. Delicate glass ornaments made in Germany were added to our decorations brought from America. My favorites were little colorful glass birds with feathers, red polka dot glass mushrooms and tiny bubbling candle lights.
The turntable was stacked with albums of Christmas carols and holiday favorites. I always liked "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause" although I am embarrassed to tell you how old I was before I "got" it. Another childhood favorite was Alvin and The Chipmunks. Our family cheerfully sang along wondering if Alvin would ever get his Hula Hoop!
We reminisced about friends and family who weren't able to be with us. We gave thanks for a peaceful evening together in the glow of our beautiful tree. The tree was finally declared our prettiest ever and ended with the official tree lighting.
As Christmas Eve drew closer the excitement and anticipation grew around or tiny community. There were holiday shopping trips to the PX and hours of gift wrapping. My older sister and I would shop in the nearby village, admiring the quaint shops beautifully decorated for Christmas.
Filled with the holiday spirit, the family would gather around the tree after dinner on Christmas Eve and open one small gift before heading off to bed. My parents reminded us that Santa wouldn't come until we were fast asleep. I never figured out how Santa knew we were living in Germany.
Christmas Day was a festive, but quiet day. My mother started us out with plenty of fresh biscuits with Country Ham and homemade cinnamon buns. The day leisurely unfolded with lots of time to enjoy our gifts and help out in the kitchen. Our Christmas Dinner was a typical Southern feast and my mother amazed us by serving everyone's favorites! I remember her in her tiny kitchen, gently whistling or humming as she prepared our holiday meal.
I miss those family Christmases. The holidays were rich with family traditions and new friends. Our tiny apartment was the center of activity and my parents were gracious hosts to their friends and neighbors.
My husband and I hope to return to Frankfurt Am Main in Germany this holiday season to experience the magic of a traditional German Christmas and to recapture the joy of Christmas Past!
Dating back to 1393 A.D. the tradition of German Christmas Markets is a focal point of the holiday season in Germany. The Frankfurt market is a spectacular example of the markets held through-out Germany during the Christmas season.
Boasting some of the most beautifully decorated market stalls in Germany, vendors offer handcrafted German toys, decorations and culinary creations dating back centuries. This year's market runs November 26th through December 21st. To learn more about the Frankfurt Christmas Market please visit their website at http://www.frankfurt-tourismus.de.