Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Blind Leading the Blind

Today is Christmas Eve. In my family Christmas Eve was never that big of a deal. We always put up our tree around Dec. 15 and on Dec. 24, we usually just sat around watching TV and drinking hot chocolate (kind of like what I am doing today). However, Christmas Eve in Germany is the BIG DAY.

Germans have a whole ritual of traditions for Christmas Eve. Although there are some regional and family differences, I discovered many similarities while talking with my students this week.

On Christmas Eve, the parents lock the children out of the living room and put up their Christmas tree (although some families do this together). The children play and then the family sits down and has dinner together, which is usually potato salad and sausages. During dinner, the Christ Child comes and places the Christmas presents under the tree. Then a bell is rung and the children race into the living room to discover their tree and rip open their presents.

I heard another variation of this tradition, in which everyone goes to Church after dinner and when they get home the children discover that the Christ Child has been there and the presents are opened.

Regardless of the order, it is important to note that today the Christ Child brings presents, which are then opened on Dec. 24.

I find this highly illogical. I tried to discuss it with the German.

Claire: It just makes no sense. Someone is in the house, while you are there AND awake. How are kids supposed to believe that?? The American tradition is much more logical.

The German: Seriously? Americans are logical?

Claire: Yes. We only have one person, Santa (aka St. Nick, Father Christmas, etc., Germans have St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and the Christ Child on Dec. 24). It makes a lot more sense that we cannot see Santa because he only comes when you are asleep. It is a lot easier to believe and is why opening Christmas presents must be on the morning of Dec. 25.

The German: (smirking) A fat guy in a red suit breaks into your house via a chimney, and you are telling me that is logical.

Claire: Hmm, I see your point.


Merry Christmas, my friends!


Carrie said...

When I was a kid, a friend told me Santa wasn't real, so my grandfather decided he was going to give me proof. That year he had bought me a new sled, so he snuck out of the house in the middle of the part of x-mas eve when the family is relaxing after dinner and gifts are being passed out. We heard bells ingle outside and he threw rocks on the roof which sounded like someone was up there and threw the sled on the front porch. It banged against the front door and he came in the living room, asking "Oh my, what was that? Carrie you better go look!" So, I go outside and there's the sled with a note from Santa telling me he had to drop this off first because it was weighing his sled down and he'd be back later. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the year trying to explain to my friends, that not only did Santa visit me at my grandparent's house and my mom's house, but he came to my grandparent's house twice in one night. My grandfather told me he had built his house, so naturally, Santa and him were close, personal friends.

Question- doesn't Hanukkah start on Dec 6th or close to it? So, if St. Nick comes Dec. 6 and Christ Child on Dec do you explain Hanukkah? Either, way, that's a lot of presents for a kid...and they say American kids are spoiled! haha!

christina said...

LOL! I've always found it totally illogical too. And the poor kids have to wait an entire day to get their loot instead of waking up to it. Around here it's customary to go to church in the early afternoon, come home and have coffee and cake and then have the Christkind come when the kids aren't looking.

We have dispensed with tradition and just do it any old way we want.

Merry Christmas to you both!

Anonymous said...

I am a German and know only after a search at wikipedia what Hanukkah is. I have never heard of anyone who celebrate it. So there is no reason to explain it to children.
And children usually don't get many presents for Nikolaus, only when they have rich parents who like to spoil them. For example when I was a kid, which wasn't very long ago, I only got a plate with sweets. And most of my friends don't get more. We all come from average families, not rich and not poor. A typical Nikolauspresent don't cost more than 20 €.

Haddock said...

I only found out yesterday that in Spain they don't open there presents until Jan 6th....and in Peru they stay up and open their presents at midnight and Santa has a French name!

We all seem to be conditioned the Anglo-Saxon version of Xmas, but I think Christina's idea is best, just dispense with tradition and celebrate it any old way you want.

Merry Christmas! :)