13 January 2011


When my landlord, Herr Weber,  called sometime ago and saw my front door and the crib he called me a "Weihnachtsfreak" (Christmas Freak), which I readily admitted to.
Cherished Teddies Crib
I have ever been thus. The reason is simple. My mother always made a great deal of effort to make Christmas a special family celebration. At first, while I still believed in father Christmas, we celebrated in the English fashion with Santa coming on Christmas Eve while I was asleep. As a young boy of 8 I joined my first Church choir and thoroughly enjoyed singing Christmas Carols at this time of the year. I had a good soprano voice so sang the first verse of the opening carol "Once in Royal David City" solo. Later as a teenager at home we celebrated in the German fashion on Christmas Eve. Then when I married my first wife, my mother-in-law introduced me to an English traditional family Christmas. She too made a great effort to make the event special. The amount of presents that appeared under the tree on Christmas Eve was to me at the time something that needed to be seen to be believed. I had never seen so many before, but from this moment on it was to become the norm for me, for many years.

For a time after my second divorce I celebrated Christmas alone, from choice, yet still made sure I decorated a tree and packed presents for friends. Once again I was a member of a Church Choir and enjoyed the tremendous feeling one gets from belonging to a small intimate congregation.
The cherished teddies crib on top of the table
my oldest and best bears having a tea party
under the table.
Now with Hanna, my partner of over 22 years, I have a German family and we celebrate on Christmas Eve. The family, three daughters and their husbands/partner and one grandson, are not permitted into Hanna's living room where her Christmas tree stands decorated with the many presents around its base, until Hanna rings a little bell. Then we all file in and take our seats around the tree to sing carols and read the Christmas story from the Bible, in English. Each person present must perform a party piece, recite a poem or read a story, relevant to Christmas. Each year Hanna recites the poem she first learned and recited when she was 3 years old. Now we wait until the baton can be passed on to our Kutty. We sing both English and German Carols. Before the last carol, which by tradition is "Silent Night" in German I read Clement Clarke Moore's "The Night Before Christmas", something I have done every year, even when alone since 1972. Then follows the orgy of opening the many presents.
After my circumnavigation, when I finally settled here in Mönchengladbach, and while my father was still alive, I always brought him over to celebrate with us. One year while decorating our tree, the second one we had decorated, Hanna's being the first, my father asked, "for whom are we doing this?"
I replied that we were doing it for ourselves. A concept he had a little difficulty with. My tree will sit in pride of place in my living room. I am not sure this year when I will put it up, but soon I think. It will sit there until Candlemas (2 February) as this is the old traditional end to the Epiphany. I may well remove the Crib from my front door before then, so as not to annoy the neighbours, leaving just the teddies having their tea party under it. I hope that this Advent time for you, the reader, will be a happy one filled with all the nicest things this time of the year can bring.

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