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Thread: Christmas in Germany vs. America

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    Post Christmas in Germany vs. America

    A Christmas For Grown-Ups
    by Sabine Barnhart

    About a week before Thanksgiving I stopped at my favorite coffee shop on my way to work to get my weekly sweet mocha when I noticed that a Christmas tune was already being played over the speakers. The first thing that came to my mind was "Oh no! Is it time already?" The Holiday Blues was trying to make its presence known by reminding me that for the next month everybody will be driving themselves crazy at the shopping malls. I despise shopping malls, and won’t set my foot in them unless I have to see my hair dresser.

    I wasn’t in the mood of having to deal with crazed shoppers in goofy Christmas sweaters and untangling Christmas lights. I try to tell myself that it is not the meaning of Christmas, but still the madness of the season goes on each year.

    My homesickness always hits the hardest around Christmas, because it was the most precious of all the holidays for me as a girl in Germany. The feeling I’ve had over the past 20 years during Christmas here in America has always been bitter-sweet, since I missed being around my family in my little village, and trying to accept the American version of Christmas.

    The German word for Christmas is Weihnachten and means Holy Night. I truly used to feel the holiness during the month of December. This sense of reverence can barely be found any longer in our world.

    "Holy" means spiritually pure and sinless and deserving reverence and adoration. These are virtuous qualities of a new-born child, and Christmas should be an enjoyable time to find that lost innocence that adults have forgotten in the clutter of making things way too complicated.

    For most of my childhood years the start of the winter season slowed life down. There was no field or garden work; all the preparation for the winter was finished, food was stored away, the wood piled up in a dry place for the long winter months, and more time was spent indoors to get away from the cold. It was a natural way for man to repose and be around home and hearth.

    My Christmas used to begin with the first Sunday of Advent, a tradition still known in the Catholic Church but forgotten in our modern world. Advent ushers in the coming of the Lord and is symbolized by four candles, with one being lit on every Sunday until Christmas Day. My mother would decorate the evergreen wreath with red bows, four candles, pine cones and mushrooms and place it on the table or sometimes even hang the wreath on long ribbons from the ceiling. Every Sunday morning one of us kids was allowed to light the appropriate candle.

    When I was a little girl, I was not aware of the symbolism so much. I was more fascinated with the candle. I loved the candlelight, especially in the winter. Our days were shorter and darkness crept in early. During the Advent season we may already have had our first snow fall and the flickering of a candle with its soft glow made the harshness of the seasonal change seem less cruel.

    Advent also signaled the start of the popular Advent calendar that all of us kids would get from our parents. The calendar usually showed a Christmas scene and has 24 little windows to be opened each day. Behind each door was a chocolate treat. The biggest piece of chocolate could be found behind the door of the 24th – Christmas Eve – which usually had a picture of baby Jesus lying on straw. It still amazes me how easily kids get excited over the taste of chocolate, when it is the only treat of the day.

    My mother was always present for the big ceremonial event of opening a new window after supper (probably to make sure we don’t get into more than just one window each day, and which we sometimes secretly did by putting the empty wrapper back in the spot).

    On December 6th the mythical figure of St. Nicholaus made his appearance with his servant "Knecht Ruprecht." He was so real to me and my brother, because he actually came and visited us one night when my parents still lived in the southern Bavarian town of Freising near Munich. We had our little chairs set up in our room, patiently waiting in our pajamas for St. Nicholas’ knock on the door.

    Sure enough, he came through the door with his servant. He looked like a priestly bishop with a white beard and long coat. We both had to stand up being in the presence of such a "holy" man so we could answer his questions. He mostly asked us if we were good and what we’ve done throughout the year. Naturally my brother and I were so stunned that all we could do was utter "yes" and nod our heads while our mouth dropped open and our eyes got bigger.

    We always kept an eye on "Knecht Ruprecht" though, because we weren’t sure if we were out of trouble yet or not. There was a big sack in his hand, and he may have received an update of the recent trouble my brother and I had gotten into. There was still that possibility of ending up in that sack. Well, it never happened. St. Nicholas rewarded us with a bag full of oranges, walnuts, chocolate (and not a stack full of expensive toys).

    St. Nicholaus represents a 4th century bishop near Asia Minor, who showed generosity toward children. His feast day was celebrated on December 6th and has become Santa Claus in North America.

    We understood his reputation quite clearly. We knew of the difference between right and wrong, and knew that we were being watched by this all-knowing man. The generosity of his giving – even if we’d gotten into a few troubles – showed us unconditional acceptance during the Christmas season.

    In later years he also came to our Kindergarten. I remember Sister Bertha lighting a candle that mingled with the sweet smell of oranges and evergreen. We’d have spicy ginger bread cookies and milk and when St. Nicholaus left the room he left behind a sense of wonderment in us kids.

    The time spent from St. Nicholaus to Christmas Eve was enjoying the snow with our sleighs and making decorations. I used to make straw stars and snow flakes out of shiny paper to put into our windows. Sometimes I got to go to the Kristkindel Markets and look at all the arts and crafts, but paying more attention to the sweets.

    It was not our custom to put a lot of electrical lights on houses. There were a few pine trees in people’s gardens that had some lights. For the most part there was darkness outside and only the houses had the glow of Christmas in their windows.


    I enjoyed sitting in the warm kitchen while my mother was baking cookies. Sometimes I got to grind the walnuts or measure the sugar. There were at least four different kinds that she made and carefully placed them in a tin container (so she could hide them from us kids). There was a strategy involved for hanging around the kitchen table during baking time.

    Ah, the hunt of finding that tin can! We knew she’d put it somewhere in her bedroom, and going after a secret bite of a cookie was like looking for the Easter egg. German lebkuchen (big round spicy cookies made in famous Nürnberg) covered in chocolate or icing was our evening treat, and they left their evidence very visibly above our mouth.

    Christmas in Germany is the time of poetry and music. Almost every organization will have their annual Christmas celebration. I joined the local band when I was 10 and started playing the clarinet. On our first Christmas we gathered for a concert in the only tavern of our village.

    The festivities took place in a large room above the guesthouse that was used for local dancing. Everyone came out to hear us play including the elders of the village, our parents and grandparents. I had to stand up in front of everyone to recite a Christmas poem. I was so nervous that all I could do was stare at a candle light near a table. My heart pounded so fast and I blushed so much, I must have glowed like a light bulb. I was so glad when I could sit back down in my chair again, and play my clarinet to the notes of Silent Night. There is nothing better than to disappear into the harmony of the orchestra.

    Every year we went around the village on Christmas Eve playing Christmas music. It used to be so cold that people would pass out hot tea and a shot of Schnapps for the grown-ups. Half the band was quite happy by the time they got home. I’m sure the notes came out a bit off as well. However, the snow made things soundproof so the cows and dogs didn’t go too crazy when we passed by.

    Christmas Eve was the holiest night of the season. Even the shop owners closed down early in order to get home to their families. My father was sent out on his most important assignment of the year to find "the perfect" Christmas tree, with final instructions from my mother.

    Children were not allowed to see the decorated Christmas tree until that night. The anticipation of entering the living room seemed just endless for a little kid.

    Oma and Opa used to come into town by train when we still lived in Freising and that diverted us for a while. My mother spent the afternoon in the living room putting the final touches on the tree until finally we were called for supper, a sign that the presenting of the gifts were near. Trying to sit quietly through dinner eating the goose, red cabbage and dumplings was just torture and then we heard the bell ringing. The Kristkindl has arrived!

    What I felt the moment the door was opened has never changed over the years – all lights were turned off and in front of my brother and me stood the most beautiful tree illuminated in candlelight and sparklers – "Aaaahhh!!" Everything was quiet and it took us a moment before we saw the wrapped gifts under the tree.

    My brother and I felt the magical presence of Kristkindl. All we could do was look at that tree. Everything looked so different in the room with the contrasting play of shadow and light. We were brought back to reality when my mother started singing "Silent Night." We usually made it through the second verse until my dad took over the tune of "Oh Tannenbaum."

    We stood there for several minutes with folded hands praying to the Christ Child, when finally my mother made the move to pass out the gifts that Kristkindl left under the tree. For the rest of the night we stayed busy playing with the new toys, which was mostly under the living room table, while the adults sipped their wine and did their grown-up conversation.

    This family tradition hasn’t changed much over the years when we moved in with my grandparents on the farm or into our new home in the early 70’s. We were never allowed to see the tree until Christmas Eve. The tree stayed up until the feast of the three kings (Epiphany) of Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, an unknown tradition in the West where altar boys dress up as the three kings that visited Jesus and brought him gifts. They bring special blessings into the house using incense and myrrh.

    The whole house would smell like "church" and I always thought it was so exotic and made me think of distant lands. The custom is to write the initials of C, M and B with chalk over the front door including the "ano domini." These initials are Latin words and mean "God bless this home."

    The final crowning of Christmas Eve was going to midnight mass with the entire family. It was the best ending of the day, because after mass the lights are turned down with only a few candles burning at the altar and around the nativity scene. The congregation knelt down at the sound of the pipe organ and we all sang Silent Night.

    It never failed that I would get teary-eyed during this song. I never asked myself why that happened, but that song was just so moving, because it really spoke in words what we all felt that night: a family coming together during a silent night welcoming a new born babe. The innocence and purity deserved reverence and adoration.

    Well, yesterday I got home from work and set on my couch wondering if I should get my Christmas decoration down from the attic. I really wasn’t in the mood for it. All I wanted to do was put on my pajamas, fuzzy shoes and curl up under a blanket on the couch and snooze.

    Everything was quiet in the house. My girls have left with their grandparents for a five-day trip. And then something stirred (it wasn’t a mouse); something inside me woke up and said "let’s do it, let’s do it!" I had a vision of my girls clapping their hands and bouncing on their toes with big innocent eyes full of joy.

    I’ve never gotten the Christmas tree and boxes down from the attic before. For the past five years this was my son’s job, but now he’s off in college and won’t be home until Christmas week. Motivated by this exhilarating feeling – quite familiar to my childhood memories – I pulled down the ladder from the attic and started to enter the darkness with a small lamp in my hand.

    At first I thought there is no way I can find the tree as I started rummaging through the boxes. But after a few frustrating maneuvers, it kind of became amusing to figure out in which box could possibly be the tree. It made me think of my advent calendar and I grinned.

    I had to open almost every box to see what was inside, since I couldn’t read some of the markings (forgot the glasses). It almost became a mystery game wondering what I will discover in the next box – forgotten Christmas Cards, a broken ornament, arts and craft from my son when he was a little boy, and forgotten decors that made me think of the toys in the "Nutcracker" story.

    All the boxes are now sitting in my garage waiting to be unpacked and their content to be used to bring that Christmassy feeling into the house. Right now they don’t look like much in their boxes. But the potential is just waiting (so I’m hoping).

    Later on that night I sat again on the couch in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers. I lit a candle and made a sigh knowing that in the next few days I will have to get to work, and curled up under a blanket. It was again quiet.

    I was thinking how I want to surprise my girls before they got home. I wanted them to walk in and see the tree and to be overcome with that awe that I felt as a little girl. I know they will be, because I can remember the same awe that I had walking through the living-room door on Christmas Eve many years ago with my parents and grandparents.

    I sat there for a while and closed my eyes and rolled through the memories of Christmas Past. I began to be thankful that I can still remember and that I listened to that little voice. Maybe it was a knock rather than a stir that I felt.

    It changed my attitude. And before I blew out the candle to go to bed, I knew the meaning of a Holy Night. I crawled under my fluffy covers in bed and felt at bliss. I felt warm and cozy inside, like I did when I saw the candle light on the advent wreath. I had no homesickness. And before I drifted off to sleep, I thanked God for letting me come home through the vision of a child.

    December 9, 2003

    Sabine Barnhart [send her mail] moved to the US in 1980 and lives in Fort Worth, TX with her three children. For the past 15 years she has been working for an international service company.

    Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig4/barnhart5.html

    Alex Linder comments:

    Woman gets at some of the ways German traditions are better than AmeriKwan, or cash-nexican. AmeriKwans will not believe that anything is better than America -- that would be unAmerican. You ought to get out more, AmeriKwan. Believe it or not, there are better places than Israel Jr. Fact is, and evidence will show, the wrong side won World War II, and every White man reading this is worse off because of it. The price of genuine liberation is the destruction of the jew. When your neighbor is a Filipino and a Mexican, you aren't a nation, you're a collection of consumers. Germany, by contrast, is, or has been, a nation - an extended family. Now be a good 'Kwan and run down to the Gap like Li'l Kim tells you and buy your 'hoodie. The worst things about America, historically, have been the Anglo commercial spirit and the Anglo excessive moralization. Now that these have been exacerbated and twisted by the jews who replaced the WASPs, America has become a money-driven, meddlesome monster - AmeriKwa. The Bushes are perfectly representative Americans. The fake bonhomie, the genuine treachery - the WASP ham cured in jew sauce. America ceased to exist when the South was murdered for exerting its rights. The question that remains is how many White men will fight to establish a new White nation on a different cultural pattern.

    http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by friedrich braun
    Christmas in Germany is the time of poetry and music. Almost every organization will have their annual Christmas celebration. I joined the local band when I was 10 and started playing the clarinet. On our first Christmas we gathered for a concert in the only tavern of our village.
    I don't think that one can really make such a sharp contrast between American and German Christmas, and perhaps she glorifies their childhood memories from decades ago a bit. Christmas is here also in great parts a "crazy shoppers" thing in a mass consume society.
    Of course the traditional "spiritually pure" Christmas with all its characteristics and phenomenoms is still there more or less, but rather hold high by traditionally orientated families, groups and communities.
    A striking phenomenom in Germany is the Americanisation of Christmas. I'm afraid that the red-clothed Father Christmas who climbs through the chimney in the night of 24th/25th december, has killed the Christkindl who always came in the evening of 24th december as well as Knecht Ruprecht. A similar phenomenom is the introducing and spreading of Halloween in the last years which was absolutely unknown in Germany in former times.

    As child I always liked the Christmas feeling as such with Lebkuchen, Christkindlmarkt etc. very much, but I would lie if I didn't admit that I also liked the Lego sets and the other stuff from the toy store which we got.

    It was not our custom to put a lot of electrical lights on houses. There were a few pine trees in people’s gardens that had some lights. For the most part there was darkness outside and only the houses had the glow of Christmas in their windows.
    Oh, oh, I just read an article some days ago that Germans buy that electrical light stuff for gardens and houses in this winter more than ever before and that in the most extreme cases that causes neighbor wars because people are disturbed by such Christmas disco...
    Man ſei Held oder Heiliger. In der Mitte liegt nicht die Weisheit, ſondern die Alltäglichkeit.

    SPENGLER

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    Here it is. From Der Spiegel 49/03 (www.spiegel.de). Okay, it's in German...

    BRAUCHTUM

    Watt und Wahn

    Grelle Weihnacht: Nie strahlten so viele Lichterketten wie in diesem Jahr. Doch nicht jeder ist hellauf begeistert. In Neuss gab es die erste Morddrohung.

    Damals in Judäa: Dunkel hing die Nacht über dem Heiligen Land, nur der fahle Schein eines einsamen Sterns erhellte die Stätte, und im Stall, zu Betlehem geboren, lag das Kindelein im schummerigen Licht einer Öllampe, Kerze oder Fackel, die nicht halb so viel Lux brachte wie die Zehner-Lichterkette von Obi für 99 Cent.
    Weshalb Weihnachten, damals in Judäa, beleuchtungstechnisch eine ziemliche Enttäuschung gewesen wäre. Für Frau Lindstädt.

    Christiane Lindstädt, Berlin-Spandau, Seegefelder Weg 395, nicht zu verfehlen wegen: der Lichternetze an Balkon und Dachrinnen, der Lichterketten an Fenster- und Türrahmen, der Lichterschläuche an Haus- und Giebelkanten, einem Weihnachtsmann, der aufs Dach klettert, einem Weihnachtsmann, der auf dem Dach Schlitten fährt, einem Weihnachtsmann, der einfach nur im Vorgarten herumsteht, dafür aber in 1,60 Meter, illuminiert wie die beiden anderen. Christiane Lindstädt wohnt dort, wo Weihnachten bunter funkeln muss als jedes Kirmeskarussell und mindestens so hell wie gegenüber bei Nachbar Uwe Wall: Der hat seine Festbeleuchtung in diesem Jahr erstmals an Starkstrom angeschlossen.

    Immer heller, immer greller. Deutschland leuchtet, alle Jahre wieder. Noch nie aber war deutsche Weihnacht so viele Lichtjahre vom dunklen Stall in Betlehem entfernt wie in diesem Dezember. Nicht nur in der Hauptstadt, allüberall auf den Dächern der Republik brennen die Birnchen, als wäre Weihnachten schon Silvester und ein dunkler Giebel eine öffentliche Schande. Die Stromzähler rasen, 10 000 Lichter an einem Haus sind keine Seltenheit, 20 000 kein Rekord mehr, und alles strahlt, bis die Augen schmerzen: vor Glitzer, Glanz und Geschmacklosigkeit.

    "Es hat sich eben so reingesteigert" - wie Uwe Wall das sagt, klingt es ein wenig nach ärztlichem Befund, auch das Wort "verrückt" lässt er sich durchaus gefallen, obwohl er als EDV-Spezialist einem anständigen Beruf nachgeht und sich auch ansonsten gutbürgerlich eingerichtet hat: weiß verputztes Häuschen, 100 Quadratmeter hinter einer ordentlich gestutzten Ligusterhecke. Im Dezember aber ist vom normalen Herrn Wall nur noch wenig zu sehen und vom weißen Putz noch weniger, der wird dann mit 300, 400 Meter Lichtschläuchen umwickelt.

    Auch wenn ihm die Autofahrer aus dem Seitenfenster "Spinner" zurufen oder wie vor zwei Jahren Eier und Tomaten vor die Hauswand klatschen, die Hütte muss brennen. Gut 3000 Euro hat er bisher für Lampen ausgegeben, dazu der Strom, immer um 500 Euro pro Jahr, doch all die Nachahmer geben ihm Recht: "Dat wird hier jedet Jahr immer mehr", berlinert Wall; die Nachbarschaft rüstet auf, Frau Lindstädt immer voran.

    Und der Handel rüstet aus: Bei Ikea melden sie in diesem Jahr 25 Prozent Umsatzplus mit wetterfesten Lichterketten, beim Metro-Konzern für Außenlichtschmuck binnen zwei Jahren eine Verdoppelung, gemessen in Lichtschlauch-Kilometern: 4000. "Das Geschäft brummt", frohlockt Metro-Mann Jürgen Homeyer.

    Die Psychologie tippt auf Kettenreaktion: "Wenn der Nachbar sich rausputzt, kann man ja nicht einfach so daneben stehen", sagt Monika Franken, Psychologin in Köln. Da wird aufgetrumpft und übertrumpft, Frankens Kollegin Hildegard Belardi aus Bergisch-Gladbach diagnostiziert: "Das ist ein Rivalitätskampf, der mit Wattstärke entschieden wird." Dazu kommt für die Seelendeuter noch der klassische Weihnachtswahn, die Suche nach dem perfekten Fest. Süßer die Glocken nie klingen, heller die Lichter nie glänzen, das übliche Durchdrehen eben.

    Brennpunkt Bayern: Ihre erste original amerikanische Lichterkette hat Ulla Haubrich 1990 nach Freising importiert. Die Nachbarskinder sollten sehen, wie in den USA gefeiert wird. Und das Schöne ist, dass es heute nicht nur die Kinder aus der Nachbarschaft sehen können, sondern auch die Passagiere im Anflug auf München: "Man muss nur aus dem Fenster blicken, dann entdeckt man unser Haus schon."

    Nahe dem Flughafen, im Erdinger Moos, erstrahlen: 9000 Lichter am Giebel, je 600 Lichter an den 5 Fenstern, dazu 15 Kränze à 100 Lichter, 4 Vorhänge à 900 Lichter, um nur das Wichtigste zu nennen. Alles in allem 33 400 Lämpchen, nicht berücksichtigt: die acht Rentiere, die den Weihnachtsmann über die Garage ziehen, nicht gewertet: die Warnschilder, die das Bauamt aufgestellt hat, für den Verkehr, wenn sich am Wochenende wieder die Ausflügler stauen. Schilder mit gelben Blinklichtern.

    Wie sehr das Land schon blinkt, blitzt, blendet, fällt aber besonders dort auf, wo es zum Blackout kommt: Düsternis, dein Name sei Bockum-Hövel, ein schmuddelgraues Viertel in Hamm, Westfalen. Erst gingen auf Radbod, der Zeche, die Lichter aus, jetzt auch noch bei Marion Kirschner, 45.

    Sieben Jahre lang hatte sie Kette an Kette gereiht: Das volle Glitzi-Blitzi, für jede Dach-, Haus-, Fensterkante, es liegt noch kistenweise auf dem Dachboden. Dafür hat Kirschner bestimmt 5000 Euro ausgegeben, obwohl ihre Tochter Claudia moserte: "Ich geh nur noch mit Sack überm Kopf aus dem Haus, damit keiner weiß, dass ich hier wohn."

    In diesem Jahr aber flackert kein einziges Birnchen auf dem Dach, kein Nikolaus lacht lichterloh, kein Rentier rennt, dass die Hufe glühen. Dabei war Frau Kirschner immer so stolz, "dat mich hier alle für bekloppt gehalten haben". Aber auch bekloppt sein kostet, allein was da an Strom durchgeht, wo Kirschner doch jetzt krank zu Hause sitzt und nicht mehr arbeitet. "Das ist so traurig", sagt sie, jahrelang nie ans Mittelmeer, damit das Geld fürs Lichtermeer reicht. Und jetzt das. Stecker raus.

    Fünf Euro kostet der Strom für eine kleine Kette mit 35 Lichtern, wenn sie vom ersten Advent bis zum Dreikönigstag brennt, das hat die Stiftung Warentest ausgerechnet. Und was ist schon eine Kette? So gut wie keine Kette. Also nehmen die Leute sie im Dutzend, immer öfter auch die modernen Lichtschläuche, die funkeln, als hielte man Hunderte Glühwürmchen in einem durchsichtigen Gartenschlauch gefangen.

    Kaum einen scheinen die Hinweise der Warentester zu stören, dass zehn Meter Lichtschlauch im Monat so viel Strom verbrauchen wie ein Kühlschrank im ganzen Jahr. Oder, in der Summe sämtlicher Ketten, den Strom "eines Großkraftwerks", wie Rüdiger Rosenthal vom Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz Deutschland hochrechnet.

    Manchen trifft dann der Schlag, wenn die Stromrechnung kommt, andere schon früher: Vor allem Billig-Lichterketten ohne Prüfsiegel sind gefährlich, der Verband der Elektrotechnik rät regelmäßig ab. Und das Berliner Landesamt für Arbeitsschutz, Gesundheitsschutz und technische Sicherheit warnt sogar vor Lichterglanz mit Todesfolge, vor allem wenn Ketten, die für innen gedacht sind, im Garten verlegt werden.

    Noch allerdings ist es zu keinem Todesfall gekommen, es blieb bei der einfachen Morddrohung. In Neuss-Röckrath.

    Dort hat Bernhard Komorowski "sieben-, achttausend" Lämpchen auf den Baum vor seinem Haus gehängt, dazu noch "so drei-, viertausend" hinten auf die Büsche im Garten. Leuchtet alles tipptopp, doch Komorowski, 64, kariertes Hemd, schwarze Puschen, sagt nur: "Irgendwann musste dat ja mal reduziert werden."

    Dazu muss man wissen, dass die anderen 28 000 Birnen diesmal auf dem Dachboden bleiben. All die schönen Lämpchen, die er sonst jedes Jahr angebracht hat, an den Gestellen in der Hauswand, die vor lauter Vier-Millimeter-Dübeln ganz pockig ist, und natürlich an den Bäumen, die niemals unter der leuchtenden Last zusammengebrochen sind, so sorgfältig hat er sie stets mit Stahldraht verstärkt.

    Doch erst kamen die Schmerzen in der Hüfte, sagt Komorowski, dann kam die Morddrohung. Noch mal so ein "Weihnachtsbaumkitsch" und die Russen-Mafia werde ihn erschießen, stand auf einem Zettel, und natürlich war das gar nicht die Russen-Mafia, was sollte die von Komorowskis schon wollen, sondern nur irgendein Nachbar, dem die Sicherungen durchgingen. Der setzte dann noch hinzu: "Wir fackeln nicht mehr lange!"

    Anfangs hat Komorowski gelacht, aber an Heiligabend vor zwei Jahren lag der Umschlag mit der toten Maus im Briefkasten, da ist er zur Kripo gegangen. Später gab es auch ein Aktenzeichen, doch das Verfahren wurde bald eingestellt, und die Drohanrufe gehen weiter. "Schlampe", "hau ab", das hört Frau Komorowski am Telefon, und im Hintergrund läuft dann Weihnachtsmusik, im August.

    So kommt es, dass Bernhard Komorowski, Herr über 2 Stromzähler, 180 Mehrfachstecker, 39 000 Lichter, Leuchtwerker aus Leidenschaft, in diesem Jahr etwas grämlich dreinschaut, weil er ja "fast nix aufgehängt hat". Nur Frau Komorowski freut sich, dass an Heiligabend, wenn sie den Backofen für den Braten einschaltet, nicht wieder die Sicherung rausfliegt.

    JÜRGEN DAHLKAMP, MARKUS VERBEET


    Hehehe, but no one of these guys will beat my signature!
    Man ſei Held oder Heiliger. In der Mitte liegt nicht die Weisheit, ſondern die Alltäglichkeit.

    SPENGLER

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    Post Re: Germany vs. America: Christmas

    I'm posting this article, that I recently came across, here in the month of May as I'm sure I'll forget about it come the winter holiday season.

    A little something on "traditional" aspects of Christmas in Bavaria:

    A Bavarian Christmas
    The singers huddle in the light of a single candle. Their voices rise in the night, their breath freezes and falls away like new snow. In the farmhouse the lamps flicker invitingly and the door flies open, spilling warmth and the fragrance of roasting chestnuts and spiced wine. They are the "Klöpfl" singers and their almost forgotten song is called the "Klöpfllied". They were once a familiar sight in every Bavarian village and in the narrow cobbled streets of old Munich. They sang their ancient songs much as carolers did in Victorian England. Coins were rarely their reward.Instead they carried sacks into which they stuffed the flour, bacon, sausages, or ham donated by the grateful burghers. "Klöpflngehen is one of the traditions that is slowly returning," explains Ingrid Sand, lecturer and author who has spent half a lifetime retrieving nearly forgotten old Bavarian customs. "It originally was what we call a Heischebrauch or a way that the poor could get a little extra money out of the rich. The food they collected was for their Christmas feast. Klöpfl comes from klopfen - to knock because they would knock at the door and then begin their song. Often a penny flute or native guitar would accompany the simple tunes." Today the Klöpflers continue their rounds in the villages of southeast Bavaria. They are usually members of a club or Verein and in some cases associated with the local church. Instead of bacon they collect money - which is donated to charity. Like many of the old ways, Klöpflngehen originated in rural society that had plenty of leisure once the harvest was finished. Women baked and sewed, men whittled and carved, and the children counted the days to Christmas with wide-eyed wonder. "Gifts were not a part of the traditional Catholic Bavarian Christmas,"explains Mrs. Sand. "On the feast of St. Nicholas good children got something and bad children found their stocking empty, but Christmas was a religious holiday that centered on the birth of Christ. Gift-giving only came later, brought along with many other customs from the Protestant north of Germany". Even the Advent wreath, that perennial sign of the season, is a recent import. Its inventor was Johann Hinrich Wichern, founder of the Innere Mission, in Hamburg. His Advent wreath was first suspended from an orphanage ceiling in 1860. Its popularity spread southward, but did not reach Munich until 1937 when the Adventkranz made its first Bavarian appearance in the Catholic church of St. Sylvester in Schwabing. Its Bavarian predecessor was the Paradeiserl made of four apples, sprigs of pine, candles and twigs of wood adorned with gold and red ribbon. Just like the Advent wreath, a candle was lit on the first Advent Sunday and a candle added each week until Christmas day. The Christmas tree was also surprisingly late in reaching Bavaria. Experts argue over its origin but one thing is sure: O Tannenbaum was another Protestant import. Queen Caroline, the second wife of Kurfürst Max IV Joseph came to Munich 1799. A short time later, in 1810, his son married Therese, Princess von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (for whom the Theresienwiese is named). Both were Protestant and both get credit for placing the first Christmas tree in the royal Residenz. The earliest record is a diorama from 1816 showing a Christmas tree in the palace. Less regal Bavarians had the Paradeiserl and the Barbarazweige. On December 4, the feast of St. Barbara, cherry branches were cut and the stems put into lukewarm water - a custom still practiced, although it no longer replaces the Christmas tree. The branches bloom by Christmas. Many families attach slips of paper containing family names to the Barbarazweige. The one that blooms first brings its owner luck throughout the year. In the past, preparations for Christmas closely followed the Church calendar. Each Saint had his day and each day had a task that brought Christmas a little bit closer. Paul Ernst Rattelmüller has written a delightful book entitled Auf Weihnachten zua. It begins with December 1 and ends on December 31. Along with songs and saints, it lists recipes for each day. Fruit bread on the 1st, Agnesplätzchen on the 4th, anise cookies on the 9th, Christstollen on the 14th, Springerle on the 18th, Zimtsterne on the 22nd, vanilla rings on the 23rd - all culminating in the wonder of Christmas night. Mr. Rattelmüller, who describes himself as the Heimatpfleger Bayerischen Brauchtums - the official guardian of Bavarian customs - is 73-years old and lives in Leutstetten. "Cookies belong to Christmas," says Rattelmüller. "A friend of ours always baked some 15 kinds for Christmas. She'd disappear into the kitchen the first week of Advent and did not come out until Christmas Eve. A young woman told her it was hardly worthwhile because 'no one eats such stuff anymore'. The old woman glared at her and said, 'Back was Gscheit's, dann fressen's es scho!' (If you learned to bake something decent, they'd gulp it down)." Modern Bavarians often prefer buying to baking. The Bäckerei Max Popp is located in a narrow back street of Solln. Half a century has gone by without significant change to Kurzbauerstraße where the bakery is located. Max Popp and his wife rise at 4 o'clock each morning to bake bread. The shop is lined with wooden shelves, and the smell of freshly baked loaves fills the block. "I start the first week of November and make 27 kinds of cookies," explains Anna Elizabeth Popp, the baker's jolly wife with twinkling eyes and a perennial smile. She uses family recipes calling for real butter, almonds and farm-fresh eggs. Some of the cookie forms have been in her family for several generations. Bäckerei Paul Schmidt is another family enterprise (founded in the 1860's). The tiny shop on Steinstraße in downtown Munich is city's number one address for marzipan. The Schmidts begin in September and produce marzipan in shapes such as the Frauenkirche and the Münchner Kindl. Another traditional Bavarian Christmas sweet is Quittenspeck (quince paste). A translucent orange confection sold at the Munich Christmas Market in the form of sausage-like rolls or pressed into decorative Christmas molds. Mr. Rattelmüller rates the Munich Christkindlmarkt highly. The portion that spills onto Weinstraße is a traditional Krippenmarkt - selling figures for Nativity scenes. "But don't forget the roasted chestnuts and a mug of Glühwein," advises Mr. Rattelmüller. "It's part of the experience". "The market in Nuremberg is more famous but I prefer the Munich Christkindlmarkt," says Mr. Rattelmüller. "It's tucked in between St. Peter's, the old Rathaus, the new Rathaus - a perfect setting." He also suggests visiting Bad Tölz's Christmas market. "The old customs are dying," says Mr. Rattelmüller. "I try to hold on to the old ways and record them so they will not be forgotten, but it is a lost world that we can never fully recover. People get nostalgic. The emptiness of modern life overcomes them and they reach back for some warmth but no one really has the time to celebrate the way we did when I was a child." One old Bavarian tradition has recently been revived in Fürstenfeldbruck. School children build tiny houses out of cardboard and balsa wood. They paste colored paper over the windows, place candles inside and attach the houses to wooden rafts. On the evening of December 13, the feast of St. Luzia, the children bring their Luzienhäusl to the parish church. After the blessing the candles are lit and the Church lights extinguished.A magical miniature city glows in the darkness as the light flickers from hundreds of tiny windows in red, blue and yellow. Following the ceremony, the children wend their way to the nearby Amper River and set their little houses afloat. According to Mr. Rattelmüller the Luzienhäusl were originally a kind of river offering meant to protect the village from floods. The custom disappeared in the 1850's but was revived some twenty years ago by a school crafts teacher. "Of all the old customs, the one that is enjoying the greatest renewed popularity is the nativity scene," says Ingrid Sand. The familiar manger scene with its shepherds, farm animals and holy family is customarily set up on Christmas Eve on a table near the Christmas tree. Mrs. Sand collects antique figures and combines them with family heirlooms and figures that she has made herself. Mr. Rattelmüller departs from tradition and starts his Nativity scene in the first week of Advent with Mary, Joseph, and the donkey searching for room at an inn. He ends it on Easter - a full passion play staged on top of his sideboard that lasts nearly half a year. The Bayerische Nationalmuseum is famous for its collection of nativity scenes. 8,000 figures collected by Max Schmederer at the end of the 19th century form the basis of the collection. One of the most famous nativity scenes is one composed of 80 figures - some dating from the 17th century - at the cloister Reutberg (between Bad Tölz and Holzkirchen). An unusual nativity can be seen in the Church of St. John the Baptist on Fellererplatz in Solln. The artist, Sebastian Osterrieder, formed the figures in terra cotta and made an identical set for the Vatican. "The camel is especially fine, " says Sister Susanne, who is in charge of the sacristy, blushing slightly. In nativity scenes everyone has a favorite figure. Originally nativity scenes were only found in Churches but the practice spread to private homes at the end of the 19th century. Before that only the figure of the Christ child or Fatschenkindl was displayed at Christmas time. These precious figures composed of a porcelain or wax head and an intricately decorated body were passed from generation to generation. One of the most famous is the Augustinerkindl in Munich. The holy infant with its lifelike face and ornate swaddling clothes probably came to Munich in 1624 and belonged to the Augustine monastery whose church is now the Deutsche Jagd und Fischerei-museum in Neuhauserstraße. Today the Augustinerkindl is on display at the Bürgerssaal Church a few doors away. "The more I delved into the past, the more obvious it became that Catholicism is the key to understanding Bavarian customs," Mrs. Sand explains. "Even those rituals rooted in pre-Christian practices survived only because they were accepted and absorbed into the church." The profoundly religious significance of Christmas has all but disappeared from modern Munich, but most families still go through the motions. On December 24th, Heiligabend, the tree is trimmed and the nativity scene set out. Christmas carols are sung and the family attends midnight church services. Christmas Eve dinner in the modern Bavarian household ranges from sausages and beer to salmon and champagne. "The 24th was originally a fast day, so in the old times little was eaten before midnight. After midnight mass the family sat down to a feast of soup and sausage, washed down by mugs of beer," says Mrs. Sand. Many families still eat Weißwurst or other types of sausage and potato salad on Christmas Eve and drink beer out of festive mugs trimmed with red ribbon and sprigs of pine. The table should be covered with a red cloth and decorated with pine boughs. On Christmas day fish, not Fleisch was the traditional holiday feast of old Bavaria. The Christmas carp was kept in a wooden tub until December 25th. The Christmas goose and the Weinachter - or Christmas pig - came into popularity much later. According to an old folk song, "Wenn man singt: Uns ist ein Kind geboren, hat die Gans ihren Geschmack verloren", which means by Christmas, the goose has lost much of its prized flavor. Bavarians prefer to eat goose on St. Martin's day and occasionally on the first day of Christmas. The turkey (Bavarians named it Indian in honor of its origin) is increasingly popular. Around the turn of the century every rural family fattened a pig for Christmas. This Weihnachter or Mettensau played a role similar to the Thanksgiving turkey in 19th-century America. It was lovingly cared for and fed, then slaughtered the week before Christmas to provide fresh blood pudding, liver sausages, and other delicacies eaten on Christmas Eve. The massive roast was served on December 25. The Weihnachter was sometimes stolen - a prank similar to the theft of the May pole - causing much merriment and providing a subject for conversation and an occasion for downing endless mugs of beer. Some farmers even slept in their barn as Christmas approached to watch over their precious Mettensau. The Christmas season in Bavaria officially ends with the feast of Heilig Drei König - the Three Wise Men - on January 6. On this day the candles on the tree are lit for the last time, the last of the Christmas cookies are served with white wine punch, and the Sternsinger make their rounds. The singers, dressed as the Three Wise Men of Christmas legend carry incense into neighbors' houses and mark their passing with a chalk inscription over the door: 20K+M+B03. The 20 at the beginning and the 03 at the end, stand for the year. The initials recall the three Wise Men of Bethlehem: Kasper, Melchior and Balthasar. Originally the inscription used the initials C+M+B which stood for the Latin, Christus mansionem benedicat - Christ bless this house. Sternsinger are now generally associated with the local church. They no longer come at random but at the request of parishioners and neighbors. A call to the nearest church and a donation is usually all it takes. Afterwards a glass or two of steaming punch is raised and the Christmas season in Bavaria rolls gently to its end.

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    Post Re: Germany vs. America: Christmas

    Just stocking up early before the Christmas rush
    Actually, I just came across a reference to Krampus's origins in another thread and that brought this to mind...

    Krampus: Santa’s Not-So-Little Helper
    You know Santa: cheeks like a rose, nose like a cherry. Now meet the Krampus, a boozy goat-horned menace that whips children around Europe.

    Santa Claus may be a wonderful symbol of the holiday spirit, but time and consumer society have warped him to the point where he makes little sense. The idea behind Santa, originally, was to carrot-and-stick little boys and girls into good behavior – he’s got a list, he’s checking it twice, and if you fall under the ‘naughty’ category it’s switches and coals for you. But what child in America is at all afraid of receiving a lump of coal under the tree? What child even knows what a ‘switch’ is? Thanks to a range of factors – Dr. Spock and Mattel are high on the list – Santa’s beneficence is a fait accompli.
    Alpine Europe, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. This is because years ago St. Nick’s job was split – while the jolly old elf delivered the goods, an evil, goat-horned spirit called the Krampus brought switches and bad dreams to the boys and girls of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and far northern Italy.

    And while many regional European traditions are giving way to international consumer culture (the fat, red-bedecked Santa is in fact quickly replacing the rail-thin St. Nick throughout the continent), the Krampus is alive and well. He even has his own day – December 5. His success is certainly thanks in part to the lack of a parallel in American society. But he has stuck around mostly because Krampus Fest, like most holidays in alpine Europe, is a beloved excuse for small towns to get together and drink their brains out.
    According to Mannfred Kapper of the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Krampus was initially a side note to the St. Nicholas story, a goat-faced eminence noir who accompanied St. Nick on his December gift-giving tours. ‘Nicholas and Krampus would come to the houses together,’ Kapper said. ‘Nicholas gave the children presents and Krampus beat them.’ But in the last 200 years, Krampus has slowly developed an identity of his own. ‘Today Krampus is more popular in the countryside, but if you come to the city it is more St. Nicholas,’ he said.
    A while back I spent a year in Jennersdorf, Austria, teaching English at the local high school. Jennersdorf is a stone’s throw from nothing, a southeastern village of 3,000 people a few miles from the Hungarian border. There I experienced a host of unimaginable traditions – I watched a man be wedded to a tree, for instance – but nothing quite compared to the weekend of drunken merriness and satanic symbology that is the Krampustage.
    Originally, Krampus had just the one day. A few men in each town dress up in furs, heavy boots, and a ghoulish mask topped with horns – with a switch in hand. Then they go to all the houses with small children, and when the parents open the door they run in and act menacing – growling and cracking their switches. The children scream. After everyone’s had a good fright, the parents invite the men to sit down and have a few shots of kirsch or schnapps, which they always accept. Not surprisingly, by the end of the night the Krampuses’ growls are a little slurred, their switch-cracking is a little too close to the children, and parents have to make sure their kids don’t look out the window, lest they catch a glimpse of the Krampus puking in a gutter.
    But Krampus Day soon morphed into Krampus Weekend; it’s likely that villagers got jealous of the lucky few who got to run around town in costumes, act like idiots, and get plastered. Thus was born the Krampusfest – or, as it is known in southeast Austria, the Kränchen. Typically held on the Saturday after Krampus Day, the Kränchen is a village-wide party held at a local school, community center, or other facility: anywhere large enough and sturdy enough to hold 300 or so drunken villagers. (Sometimes a town will hold its Kränchen a week before or after Krampus Day – that way other villages can participate, turning what was originally one night of child-spooking into a three-weekend-long sousing.)
    The Kränchen I attended was sponsored by my school’s junior class to make money for the senior ball. (The drinking age in Austria is 16.) Jennersdorf didn’t have a facility large enough to hold the party, so the kids rented a hall a few towns over. There were two rooms – in one, the main hall, a band played on a stage at one end, fronted by a dance floor; to the side ran a long bar, staffed by students backed by multiple cases of beer. Most of the hall, though, was taken up by long tables – it bothered me more than a little that they were of the same style found in most American school cafeterias: the kind that fold up in the middle and come with injection-molded plastic seats attached. The band played Top-40 hits, which in Europe is a mix of angsty, American punk-lite and goofy dance tunes. The other, much smaller room was the ‘Hard Core Saale,’ featuring low lighting, mixed drinks, and rap.
    Most of the night I drifted between the two rooms, though toward midnight I settled at a long table with a bunch of my sophomore students. When I asked what their parents thought of all this, Eva, 16, told me her father was sitting three tables over. So everything was OK. Then a boy named Thorsten, 15, turned around in his seat and vomited.
    Fortunately, the Kränchen’s organizers were prepared – within five minutes the school’s star volleyball player – and, now, custodian – was over with a mop and bucket. For a little while I wondered if I should do something adult-like, say, find the principal and get Thorsten a ride home. But then Peter, the basketball coach, walked over, clapped Thorsten on the back and said, ‘Jüngen! (‘Boy!’) I hear our friend had a little accident!’ Everyone laughed; even Thorsten smiled meekly. ‘You OK?’ Peter asked. Thorsten nodded and said ‘Ja,’ and that seemed to be that.
    Around 12:30 the Krampuses arrived. Five of six guys, dressed in full goat-god regalia – switches in hand – ran into the hall and began whipping people. A few party-goers fought back, but most everyone – Krampus and non-Krampus alike – were too gone to care. After 10 minutes of this, the Krampuses took off their masks, everyone laughed, one of the bartenders brought over a round for them and the drinking recommenced in earnest.

    At 2:00 am, when I left, the hall was still packed, reeking softly of overworked heating, spilt beer, and vomit. A few younger students left with me, two of them on either side of one of their semi-conscious comrades. Clearly a good time was had by all, myself included. And yet I wondered, as we drove back through the darkness, how the the Krampus had devolved – from a spirit meant to shock children into good behavior – into an excuse for wild inebriation, and in much the same way that Santa Claus had been co-opted by crass commercialism. Not to mention the way that Christmas itself, meant to celebrate the birth of a savior, had become an excuse for mass consumption – material, alcoholic, or otherwise. And suddenly, despite all the über-weirdness I had seen that weekend, I felt very close to home.
    "Nur der ist seiner Ahnen wert, der ihre Sitten treu verehrt"

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