While I was talking with him on the phone a moment ago, my sister walked in to pick him up for birthday cake and coffeee, followed by card games (usually Canasta or similar) with one of his brothers and other family members and maybe a little wine - a long standing Birthday Tradion that's religiously kept in honor of my dad's birthday - the eldest of five brothers.
I thought this is a good time to share some of my early childhood Christmas memories that I have of me and my dad. We lived out in the country in a small village on a big property with ponds that was surrounded by a tall, dense evergreen hedge. Periodically my dad would trim the hedge, but he always allowed about three trees to grow tall so that he would have a few to choose as our Weihnachtsbaum or Kristbaum. (Christ is also spelled with K in Germany.)
Growing up Catholic, we celebrated the four Sundays of Advent before Christmas and then on Heiligen Abend (Christmas Eve) December 24th in the afternoon, my dad would fell one of the best evergreens. He'd pick the straightest one and the one whose branches were spaced just right for clipping on the real candles that were always used in those days.
So, there we were decorating our Weihnachtsbaum not only with delicate glass ornametns, but lots of sweets like fondant and jelly rings, pretty foil wrapped chocolate ornaments and celophane wrapped marzipan strawberries. I remember us play fighting over the marzipan, because it was both of our favorites and it often turned out into a wrestling competiton over the last bite...with lots of laughing and good tastes.
Lastly we would add the tinsel, one strand at a time... so it would hang straight on each branch making the tree look as if it were covered with liquid silver. (I was mortified when I saw one of my friends in the US grab a handfull of tinsel one day and just casually toss it on her tree.) I don't use tinsel anymore, not since I saw one of my cats eating it a long, long time ago.
In Germany we exchanged our Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve after dinner and after we all stood around the lit tree, holding hands and singing some Christmas carols. My dad would accompany us with his accordion and we all sang while gazing at the candle lit Christmas tree ... oh, Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blaetter...
When I still believed in the Kristkindl (bringing our gifts), my dad had to be creative to allow me to hang on to my childhood fantasy as long as possible. Later on, I figured out how he did it. Somethow he manged to sneak away without me noticing and got the little angel candle light going that makes the chiming sound as the heat of the candles makes the angels turn around. (pictured below)
It was never a whole bunch, but the few things I got, I really appreciated. I knew that one uncle always gave me colored pencils because he worked for A.W. Faber Castell in Stein, Bavaria (Germany) and another uncle always gave me a book that was age appropriate and even though I knew that, I looked forward to it every year. My Oma in East Germany always sent me a Teddy Bear in the mail and when I got the brown paper package, I ran home, turning the box back and fro and hearing the bear roar inside (they used to have that little baaaa sound build in.) I loved my teddies most of all because I could sleep with them and not get pocked in the ribs by stiff fingers on the dolls' hands.
So, thanks for the memories, Papa, and please live a good long time so I can see you again!
Oh, mein Papa...
ALLES GUTE ZUM GEBURTSTAG!