Gizzy in Heaven!

Gizzy in Heaven!
I love you forever and ever, Amen!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Today is December 12th when my dad in Germany turns 82. He is a jack of all trades and a very versatile man. Growing up in Germany we were best friends when I was young.  When I became a teen-ager we often were arch enemies. Now that the past is all water under the proverbial bridge, we are equals and talk to each other (and write) whenever we can. I thank God every day for having him around and I pray for many more good years for him to enjoy and hopefully, one more visit from me. So, alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Papa und lebe hoch!

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.

On Christmas eve, my dad would also hang some sparklers on the tree for extra special effect.

(above is a picture of a real tree with real candles and lit sparkler - similar to ours, only we had tinsel too!)

Then, on Christmas Eve, which was our big celebration, we would all eat dinner and in those days the traditional dinner feast was Karp (yuk!)  I HATED the dreaded Christmas Karp - and I was so relieved when I eventually choked on a bone and after that never had to eat it again Oma (granny) finally switched to fish sticks and that was just fine by me. Even though my dad would catch the karp alive and put him in the portable bathtub in the basement with running water for a few days - it still tasted muddy and I never got used to that taste.

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)

My dad would go into the living room (in German houses every room has a door that locks, even the kitchen) to light this candle and then went to get me. We all stood by the door and when we heard the little chimes, my dad said that the Christkindl was in there and I believed it - so we waited a while and then my dad said, he'd best go in first to check to be sure it's gone - (apparently children are not allowed to actually see the Christkindl bring the gifts) - so that's when he disposed of the chimes after which he led me into the room with the gifts under the tree.

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...


♥ Kathy said...

Happy Birthday to your Papa! What beautiful memories you have ♥

Jane (Frugal Fine Living) said...

Happy Birthday, Papa! Your Christmas memories up sound absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing them and making my day special.


Deborah said...

Happy Birthday to your Papa!
Your Christmas memories are so nice. I love your Christmas tree with the real candles. My old neighbor was from Germany and she had real candles on her tree, it was just georgous!
I have the Angel candle also, I am going to put it out. I love that decoration!
Merry Christmas!

Julies knitting corner said...

A lovely story your Dad looks very good for his age, and I am sure he is loved by all of you. Have a warm celebration. best wishes Julie.C