When I grew up Christmas Eve and the New Year were magical times because my German mother made it so. Real candles on the Christmas tree, shoes left at the doorstep (would St. Niklas fill it with candy or coal?), handmade wreaths, Linzer torte and pfeffernusse cookies, and of course, many rounds of Oh Tannenbaum and Stille Nacht. Perhaps my favorite joy was carefully opening up the tiny sparkled covered doors on the beautiful advent calendars sent to us by relatives, with cherubs, gnomes, forest animals, and baby Jesus in a manger in a snowy field. It didn’t have to make any sense. Make believe has its purpose. It was the anticipation that mattered. What little illustration would be uncovered? An acorn. A pretzel. A reindeer.
Inevitably, there was always a walk outside, a toboggan ride, or pond skating—no matter how cold. I look back now and see a wonderful blend of Nordic rituals, the winter solstice, and Christian traditions. It was a whole month of contemplation and celebration. Even when times were tough—which pretty much was every year—the festivities were laden with warmth, connection and hope for new beginnings.
The Germans like to say, “Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!” And so I, too, wish you a good slide into the new year!
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