I am embarrassed to admit I found myself almost dreading Christmas this year. I knew it would be incredibly difficult being so far from our loved ones on such a cherished holiday that is so centered around togetherness and being with family. I kept reminding myself that I needed to focus on the important part of the season, as well as the fact I needed to treasure making Christmas our own with our own sweet little family. I also reminded myself what a cool opportunity it is to be here and I need to enjoy the ride!
Christmas is a pretty big deal in Germany. There are Christmas markets held throughout the country; smaller towns typically hold them one weekend sometime between the end of November and Christmas, while bigger cities hold them open the whole time, even during the week. Münich, Dresden, Nuremburg and even Stuttgart are some of the better-known markets, but there are literally hundreds scattered all across Germany as well as Austria and Switzerland (and likely elsewhere too)! Going to a big, crowded market wasn’t really our cup of tea, especially with two small kids, so we opted for a small market in the nearby town of Maichingen. It is a 25 minute walk from our house. We were half way there when I discovered I forgot my camera :P We were surprised with how crowded this “unknown” market was…it was so packed we could not maneuver the stroller! My severely claustrophobic husband stayed on the outskirts with the baby while I took Kane and browsed the various booths of homemade goods, offering things such as scarves, ornaments, food, etc… We met up with my friend Friederike and her family, and they were so kind to treat us to some gluhwein, which is hot, mulled wine. It was delicious and perfect for a crisp, December night! I didn’t end up buying anything and had intended to go to at least one other market, but it didn’t pan out between fighting colds, lack of a car, and it being a bit of a hassle to go places with two little ones. Next year! I hope we can check out Esslingen, Ludwigsburg, Ulm and Tübingen at the very least.
I finally got some holiday cheer when we found a cute little pre-lit tree on base. It was the weekend before Christmas and I could not wait to put it up. Kane was an excellent helper and his excitement over Santa coming to visit was absolutely contagious! Nearly every day new packages arrived from our loved ones and Kane couldn’t wait to get them settled under the tree. Christmas is NOT about the gifts, and about so much more, but seeing those packages arrive and wait under the tree was a constant reminder of our wonderful families that lovingly sent those gifts from so far away.
On Christmas Eve, I made a roast, with mashed potatoes and gravy and greenbeans flavored with bacon and onion. And a cherry pie (thanks to Sara Lee). It turned out nice and Lucy got her first bit of solid food (squash) to celebrate as well! We had decided we would have the kids open their gifts from us and Chad’s side of the family that night, since they celebrate it on Christmas Eve. But first, Chad read us the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke. It was a special memory watching him read it as Kane eagerly listened in his lap. I couldn’t help but think of missing our family, but it also struck me that we were making it our own and starting our traditions. It was a really wonderful evening.
I could not contain my excitement over Santa coming to visit and gained a whole new appreciation for our parents and the lengths they went to for us making Christmas morning special. We had decided the kids would receive one present from Santa and one or two from us, and well as one from each other. That is it. We knew they’d be getting many other things from their grandparents and we did not want the emphasis on Christmas to become about how many presents they get. Kane asked Santa for a “see-saw” and “cutter thing”, which we knew to mean tools. Lucy didn’t care obviously, but she definitely needed some age-appropriate toys! Before bed, we made sure to leave Santa some peanutbutter cookies I’d made and some milk and we wrote him a note. While I got Kane settled in bed, Chad already started putting together his tool bench. We could not wait to see his face the next morning!
It went just as I had imagined…he loved it and I think was just as excited over the fact Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk! My mom happened to be up extremely late and skyped with us at about 9 a.m. and it was a treat to see her face and have Kane show her all of his favorite new things.
We had planned to drive to Strasbourg, France for Christmas Day…however we had to change the plans when Chad realized he’d need his International driver’s license and there was an issue taking the rental car out of the country or else we’d face a huge fine if caught. We chose not to risk it and decided to go to Hohenzollern Castle instead. It was a place I’d been wanting to go for awhile and one of the only things open on Christmas. It was windy and cold, but both kids did amazingly well and tolerated me stopping every 50 yards to take another picture. It was beautiful, and while it wasn’t quite France, it was still a really neat adventure.
Our Christmas 2011 was a most memorable one, not only was it our first with Lucy, it was our first we made our own.