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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Magic of Christmas

This time last year (depending on which time zone your in) I was flying high above the North Pole and the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the fact that we were not home for Christmas I still put up a tree and decorated it with the few things I had inherited from Ty's mom.
This year is going to be very different.
We'll be staying very close to home. Waking up to presents in the morning. Being able to actually exchange gifts to one another.
For these reasons I'm counting this year as our real 1st Christmas as a married couple.
Last year was amazing, but I've really enjoyed getting gifts for my hubby and waiting in anticipation for his reaction.

Our tree this year isn't as skimpy either.
Fake, yes, but skimpy it is not.
While we were in Germany I made a special effort to find ornaments fit for our family tree.
What's more appropriate than a set of nutcrackers?
A package of miniature Christmas folk in true German form.
Pinecones and little red gift-wrapped presents also hang from the plastic branches.
I still use the ornaments gifted to me from my mother-in-law.
I love this little German Cukoo Clock.
How darlin' is this little guy?
He makes me hungry.
These small red and gold balls accent the tree perfectly.
To finish it off is a lovely red and gold ribbon that came with the pinecones and small gift boxes.
I beg of you to disregard the A/C unit behind the glory of the tree.
It's not my fault.
I didn't put it there.

In Germany, real candles were lit on the tree. My mom told me that there were some fires as a result.

It's also a well-known tradition that the tree wouldn't be decorated until Christmas Eve. It was an unveiling of sorts.

I'm too anxious and couldn't stand the waiting.

I'm really excited because today my family will be doing our German Christmas Dinner.
It's part of the Magic of Christmas for me.
That magic gets lost somewhere along the way to adulthood and we forget how exciting all those little things can be.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your family, friends, and food.
And presents.

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's a Movie Marathon! And we're off...

I admit it. I got a pretty late start on my Christmas Movie watching. Everyday, I would think, "Today's the day. I'm going to watch one." And then something came up and I'd slink back into my bed and remember the missed opportunity. However, I will submit to the court that I did watch Miracle on 34th Street Thanksgiving night.

These are just a few of the movies I have planned.

I can go ahead and check off the list the following:
Miracle on 34th Street
Elf
Frosty the Snowman
Frosty Returns
Santa Claus is Comin' To Town!
The Little Drummer Boy
Santa Claus: The Movie
Polar Express
The Santa Clause
A Christmas Story

That may seem like a lot, but it's a loooooong ways to go before I get through all the movies on MY list. However, I'm confident can make a pretty good effort.

There have been a few I've been wanting to collect that I haven't been able to get my hands on. "A Muppet Christmas Carol" for instance. Did you know that Netflix doesn't rent it? Or anywhere else for that matter?! The injustice.

What about the classic "The Best Christmas Pageant EVER"?
Did somebody go and forget about that one?!!!!!

Honestly, what would Christmas be without these gems?
We may soon find out.

What movies can you not go without seeing to gear up for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread House

Last night Ty and I made our first Gingerbread House.

Ty was new to this experience completely.

Someone explain to me how one goes a lifetime without putting one of these together.

We started with the usual ingredients.

Wanting to make sure we got it right, we did a little research.

Then got right to work.

I was as giddy as a schoolgirl to put this together.

I love the coming together of varieties of sugary deliciousness.
It brings joy to my world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

German Christmas Traditions: Christmas Carols

I remember when I was little and we sang the German Christmas Carols.

Most of the time, I really didn't know what I was saying.

Okay, so I didn't know what I was saying at all while singing them.
But that's beside the point.

When I think of Christmas these songs are some of the first that come to mind.

O Tannenbaum
Only Christmas song I only know in German and NOT in English.



O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Dein Kleid will mich
was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft
zu jeder Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Das soll dein Kleid
mich lehren.

O du fröhliche
I don't know what it is about this song, but I feel calm and happy when I hear/sing it.



DEUTSCH
Johannes Daniel Falk, 1816

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren,
Christ ist geboren,
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen,
Uns zu versöhnen,
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Himmlische Heere
Jauchzen dir Ehre,
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

ENGLISH (lit. prose)

O you merry, o you blessed,
Merciful Christmastide!
The world was lost,
Christ was born,
Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom!

O you merry, o you blessed,
Merciful Christmastide!
Christ appeared,
To reconcile us,
Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom!

O you merry, o you blessed,
Merciful Christmastide!
Heavenly hosts,
Exult your honor,
Rejoice, rejoice o Christendom!

Kling Glöckchen
Again, this one just makes me happy, but more in a giddy way.



DEUTSCH

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Laßt mich ein, ihr Kinder!
Ist so kalt der Winter!
Öffnet mir die Türen!
Laßt mich nicht erfrieren!
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Mädchen, hört, und Bübchen,
Macht mir auf das Stübchen!
Bring euch viele Gaben,
Sollt euch dran erlaben!
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!

Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling!
Hell erglühn die Kerzen,
Öffnet mir die Herzen,
Will drin wohnen fröhlich,
Frommes Kind, wie selig!
Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling!
Kling, Glöckchen, kling! ENGLISH

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Let me in, you kids!
So cold is the winter!
Open the doors for me!
Don't let me freeze!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Girls, listen, and boys,
Open up the room for me!
I bring you many gifts,
You should enjoy them!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Brightly glow the candles,
Open your hearts to me,
I want to live there happily,
Devout child, how blessed!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Finally, my favorite of all...
Silent Night or Stille Nacht
It was written by Josef Mohr, an Austrian priest.
No matter how many times I hear it and no matter when, I always find myself struggling to fight back tears.
The words and the music combined have an effect on the soul that only they could.


I
hope you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I do.


What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

(Lyrics for the songs were found @ About.com)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

German Christmas Traditions: Lebkuchen and Haselnuss cookies

This isn't exactly a German tradition, but for my mom and I, it's definitely a Christmas tradition.

Mom has made them every year for Christmas for all of time.
At least my time.

Lebkuchen (Lai-b-coo-ken, but say it with an accent........nice work) is to the Germans as Gingerbread is to Americans. It's not exactly the same, but close enough.

Haselnuss cookies are simply Hazelnut cookies.
Yes, I could have just said that, but we're being authentic here.
Well, sorta.

The key for Lebkuchen is the honey. At the time of it's origin that was the only sweetener available. Believe me, it makes a world of difference.

This is my niece, Sammy. She the Top Chef around here. She's gonna show us how it's done.

Nana Ursula or Ushi will also be of assistance.

I won't go step by step and tell you all the details.
But I will say the first part involves hot honey and making it foamy.
This ensures that everything is right in the world.

Then you throw in some spices and stuff.
Blend it all together.

When you're done it will look something like this.
Take the mixture and place it in a greased and flour (preferably) 9x15 pan or 9x13.
Also, I find it easier to do this next to a fresh batch of rolls. For when you get hungwry.
This is the part where I show off my Mommy. Isn't she pretty?
Seriously, with genes like this, how can a girl go wrong?
Sammy will now demonstrate the taste testing portion. Done with class....and determination.
I needed proof that I was contributing so I had the only person available at the time take a picture. My three-year-old niece. Girl's got skills. No wonder considering her mother is an amazing photographer.
We'll just skip the mixing of the Hazelnut cookies and assume all went well.

Once the dough is made, you have to crank it through this contraption and make pretty shapes. Not an easy task, let me just tell you!
Once it's all done, you through it in the oven for baby and me!

.....................................

Sorry, I get carried away.

And no, I'm not pregnant. : )

The end result is truly bliss.

By the way, each of these delectable treats include chocolate, at least for us.
The Lebkuchen has it smeared on top right after coming out of the oven and the Hazelnut cookies get dipped on the ends.

Mmmmmm, I think I need some right now.

Excuse me while I go gain 10 pounds.


What yummy treats do you make/look forward to for the Holidays?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

German Christmas Traditions: St. Nikolaus Tag

Something you need to understand about us German folks.

WE LOVE CHOCOLATE!!!

And please don't ask us to share. It's not in our nature to share chocolate.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's turn our attention to a very important day.

December 6th.
Or as we call it in Germany, St. Nikolaus Tag (pronounced tog).
Traditionally, this begins on the 5th of December, but many also carry this out on the 6th.

If you are going to have a really authentic St. Nikolaus Tag, then you'd wait for a man dressed up as St. Nick who comes around to all the houses and offers gifts to the children. He would resemble a bishop and carry a long staff with him. As well as a golden book containing all the good and bad deeds of the children. In his company would be a posse of devil-like creatures (bachelor men dressed up very wicked looking) called Krampusse or Krampus to gently scare the children. Christina of ourlittlebox.com, has some amazing pictures on this post.

There is also a more classic Santa Claus looking man. He comes alone carrying a sack, which by the way has a small switch sticking out to serve as a small reminder to be good.

However, growing up we did this.
For some, St. Nikolaus doesn't make a personal appearance.
Instead they leave their boots (or in Ty's case a slipper since the boy doesn't own boots...weird) by the door or window. Later to discover the gifts and treats HE has left them.
For my brothers and I, we would leave our boots by the door before heading off to bed. Soon after we'd get a knock on our window seal (we all lived in the basement of our house). We would run upstairs to see the lovelies brought to us by, of course, St. Nikolaus.

Even after I left home, my mom would always make sure to send me a care package of treats for St. Nikolaus Tag. It was not to be missed.
The most important piece was one of these.
A Lindt Chocolate Santa
(Picture from Lindtusa.com)

They were extremely hard to find this year.
I searched high.
I searched low.
Near and....well, okay I only searched in Kennewick, but still.
I finally found them at Target before they eventually did run out.
Honestly, this is a staple Christmas treat for my family and to not have it was simply out of the question.

Do you celebrate St. Nikolaus Tag?
How do you celebrate it?

Friday, December 18, 2009

German Christmas Traditions: Advent Wreath

Another form of counting down to Christmas in Germany, and in most of Europe, is an Advent Wreath.

At this moment in time I am not an owner of such a wreath.
Instead I have this, which works well for us newlyweds.

It has four wicks so it serves the purpose of this tradition.

This is the one my grandparents had in their home last year.
There's not much to be said as far as the background goes. No one seems to know exactly how this tradition was created. However, there are many signs that lead back to Germany.

Here's how it works:
Four candles are placed in a wreath. They represent the four weeks in Advent.
On the first day of each week of Advent, Sunday, a candle is lit. This continues each week until all the candles are lit. Some wreaths will even include a fifth candle to be lit on Christmas Eve.
As the tradition goes, the family gathers around to light the candles, usually at the end of the day. In my family, as well as many others, we would light them at the dinner table. This practice of lighting the candles is somewhat similar to the lighting of the Menorah during Hanukkah.

This coming Sunday will mark the final week in Advent and all of the wicks will be lit.

Do you use and Advent Wreath?
What does it look like?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

German Christmas Traditions: Advent Kalendar

In my family, Christmas is the time we celebrate our German heritage the most.
I have German traditions boiling out of my ears.

Everything starts with this.....

Our Advent Kalendar.
Translation: Advent Calender

Got it.
Okay.

The one you see above is actually one of my brothers....that I sorta, we'll just say borrowed, without the intention of giving it back. :)
As you might imagine, it's very old and has seen many Decembers.
The number five didn't agree with something one and four said and skipped town. String is missing from one or more of the little booties. Yet, I can't help feeling tied to this burlap candy holder.

The Advent Calendar has been transformed a little through the ages and has turned slightly modernized, including chocolates for the anxious recipients. Originally, it began with a simple countdown as you put a chalk mark on the door. Eventually, it grew into lighting candless (I'll do a post on the Advent Wreath as well). At the turn of the century the calendar came in printed form, with a picture for each day (instead of a chocolate). Gerhard Lang, who first started printing them, must have decided that it would be wonderful to make it a surprise and added little doors for the pictures to hide behind. (All information was found here.)

You'll probably see design more like this when you go to the grocery store.
I'm not sure when we started using these in place of our ragged countdown, but eventually we succumbed to commercialism. I, however, like picking out which treats I'm going to get instead.

Have any of you ever seen "A Christmas Calendar" with Loretta Swit on the PBS channel?
If you haven't I'm not surprised.
If you have, and you have a copy, I will pay you a gazillion dollars to have it.
Or you could make a copy and give it to me for Christmas.

In it she travels through Germany and gives wonderful explanations of German traditions using an Advent Calendar as the guide.
Because let's face it. If you're going to celebrate Christmas anywhere, it should definitely be Germany right?

I'll leave you with this picture of a life-size Advent in Sigmaringen, Germany. The pictures, I believe, were given by Elementary school children.

Do you use an Advent Calendar?
If you do what does it look like?
If not, what do you do to countdown to Christmas?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Great Feast and the Day after...

Thanksgiving.
What a glorious day for feasting!

This year we came together with my family and congregated at my parents' home.

Isn't the table lovely?

I could hardly wait to get my hands on one of these.
Grandma's famous rolls. Is there anything better than a good roll?
I don't think so.
We made up a nice little table for the chillins under 12.

I swear I found these like this, but my aunt said that it was a good representation of the day. Hehe.

Prepping food for the masses.

Or is it a mass of food for the people?
I always get it confused.
(Note: I made the two things in the bottom left corner of the first picture. Soooooo good!)

My mommy and I. She so pritty.

Finally, after I gave the prayer of thanks, we dug right on in.
We're still teaching my Dad how to chew his food.
He's learning so fast.

Happy Eaters!

Some were enticed by conversation. While others had one thing on their mind.

Focused Eaters.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Look at all the food!

We were all very happy by the end.

That's when us womenfolk got down to brass-tass.

We take our Black Friday seriously.

A little After-Dinner-Play-With-Your-Food time.
Seriously, this boy is too cute.

After our delightsome dinner, everyone parted ways.

Some of us had to get ready for this!

Note for next year......just wait for Cyber deals.
Moses Lake Wal-mart was a Madhouse.
We drove over to the Ephrata Wal-mart after this and it was in waaay better condition.

The lines alone were enough to send me packing.

But Momma Bear endured and purchased her coveted items.

I'm tired just writing this.

I think I need more pie.

How was your Thanksgiving?
If you're married or in a serious relationship, which family did you get together with?
How do you juggle families and Holidays?
How did you manage on Black Friday?
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