Christmas Card Greeting in the Old German Handwriting

This postcard, written in Suetterlin, dates back to a time between 1915 and 1941, when Suetterlin was widely in use.

This form of modern handwriting was introduced by the ministry to be used in offices and schools.

After I learned Latin letters in first grade, the following year (or maybe third grade), we also had to learn to write in Suetterlin style. It is very useful to know now – when browsing archives and old documents in my research.

Gesegnete Weihnacht! = Have a blessed Christmas!

Gesegnete Weihnacht by Margret Savelsberg

 

I wish all my readers a blissful year-end season, filled with bright lights and happy memories to reflect on.

“I am grateful for all the moments that I have, and I’m moving forward one step at a time to the future.”  – Park Bo-gum (박보검)

 

German Christmas: Now and Then

Christmas traditions were quite different while growing up in a northern Bavarian village in the 1960s. Marketing and consumerism have changed the spirit of Christmas since then.

First of all, we never saw any Christmas decorations before Christmas, except for the traditional advent wreath (German: der Adventskranz).

I grew up in a farming family of nine people (parents, grandmother, aunt, and five children). When we kids got in the way, we were told to go outside and play. This was especially the case in the late afternoon to early evening on Christmas Eve. I suppose we played out on the side walk, went sledding, or sneaked around the barn, looking for cats, mice, or trouble.

On Christmas Eve, our day of gift-giving, we had an early and simple dinner – most often Sauerkraut and Bratwurst (fried sausage), or potato salad with Knoblauchwurst (pork sausage seasoned with garlic). Dinner had to be simple and quick, since the older family members had to set up Christmas behind the scenes – all afternoon and up to dinner time.

We younger kids got restless sometimes, and tried to peak through the key hole into the living room. We did this in spite my mother’s warning that if we got caught peaking by the Christkind (Christchild, the angel gift-bringer), she would not bring any presents.

The story we were told was this: The Christkind, an angel-like figure, dressed in white, with long curly blonde hair, would come in flying through the open window to deliver the presents. As a matter of fact, when we finally got called in, the room felt a bit chilly. The family must have been working on overdrive to get the tree decorated, the creche set up, the presents wrapped, and dinner made. They actually had to open the window for some cooling down.

When we walked into the room, we little ones were awestruck by the shining Christmas ornaments on the tree, and real candles lighting up the tree.

Typical presents at that time for me were (at least in our family): new pajamas, a doll, or a wind-up monkey.

I remember being really proud of my shiny new pajamas. 🙂 Note the Venetian Gondola, a souvenir my oldest sister had brought back from her honeymoon to Rimini in 1968.

Christmas Eve 1971

I got this kind of wind-up monkey for Christmas 1966. It did not last very long, unfortunately. The manufacturer is not to blame, just too many busy little hands. This one I found at a flea market in Kronberg in the late 1990s, and it still works. To keep him upright for his first photo opportunity in 50 years, I had to prop him up on a glue stick. Tired little monkey.

In general back then, our Christmas tree sat there from 24 Dec – 6 January (Epiphany). Then it was time to bring this season to a close. There was no Christmas tree pick-up service at that time, and being farmers anyway, my father chopped up the tree, and we burned it in one of the two wood stoves we had in the house (kitchen and bathroom).

Nowadays, in my own German-American family, we have fused both traditions, the German and the American one.

We put up the tree and its trimmings in the first/second week of December (American). We put our Christmas cards on display (American). We celebrate Christmas on 24 Dec (German). We used to make big dinners on Christmas Eve (my American husband liked this), but this year for the first time, we will have an easy and quick one – German potato salad and wieners (German). After sirty years, sis Cherman is finally getting her vay. 🙂

By the time the second Christmas holiday (26 Dec) rolls around, I’ve had it with Christmas. We take the decorations off the Christmas tree before New Year’s Eve (American). The tree rests on the balcony until we throw it off the fourth floor balcony on pick-up day (after Epiphany), and either we, or the Hausmeister, drag it to the side of the road.

Our Christmas tree with some ornaments as old as our marriage certificate (close to 30 years).

Before I forget – the Christkind brings the presents in central and southern Germany. Up in northern Germany, closer in location to the original Sinterklaas version (from the Netherlands) of Santa, there are families who tell stories of the Weihnachtsmann bringing the gifts.

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten!

Happy Holidays! Schöne Feiertage!

Autumn Impressions from Germany

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

– Albert Camus

Fall and snowy winters are my favorite seasons. This year’s fall has come a bit later after we had a rather lengthy summer with a drought.

I love to see the blankets of leaves, which I don’t have to rake. I enjoy foggy mornings while having coffee on the balcony. Then we might have clear blue skies a.k.a. Indian summer (German: Altweibersommer = old women’s summer), when the yellow leaves are so bright against the deep blue sky. Autumn is full of change.

If time allows, I take morning walks through the nearby forest.

Herbststimmung im Wald.

Another pretty sight in downtown Bad Homburg.

Amber-colored leaves

A Japanese maple in the sunshine

A dog rose bush  providing tasty berries for Hagebuttenmarmelade (rose bush jam). When I was younger, this type of jam was available in supermarkets  only between November and late spring. I suppose they have it year-round nowadays.

Against dreary November skies, a cup of hot mulled wine (German: Glühwein) might help in the evening. 🙂 With the mostly sunny days we’ve had, MY Glühwein bottle is still unopened.

Memorial Service: 80 Years After the November Pogrome

Invitation to a district-wide memorial service to observe the 80th anniversary of the pogroms of November 1938

On Friday, 9 November 2018, in front of city hall in Oberursel (Taunus), a service will be held to memorialize the Jewish population of the Hochtaunus who were victims of the pogroms of November 1938.

14:00 General information about the memorial activities for Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in the Hochtaunus

14:30 Beginning of the Hour of Remembrance

15:30 Walk to the monument dedicated to the Jewish residents of Oberursel who were victims of National Socialism

16:00 End of service

If you plan to attend, then sign up with one of the contacts listed below .

  • kultur@hochtaunuskreis.de
  • Tel: 06172 – 999 4610
  • Fax: 06172 – 999 9811

This is organized by the Gesellschaft für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit Hochtaunus e.V. (GCJZ Hochtaunus) in cooperation with the Hochtaunuskreis.

Lily of the Valley and How to Grow Them on the Balcony

Seeing my lily of the valley finally coming to bloom on the balcony, after four years or more in waiting, makes me happy. This potted plant had been sent to me from Switzerland on Mother’s Day.

In the language of flowers, the lily of the valley symbolizes marital happiness.

The following spring, I transferred the plant from its small pot into a wooden flower box on the balcony. It spread its green leaves throughout the box, but that was it.

Yes, after five years at the least, I was tempted to throw it out and told the plant as much. That was sometime in March of this year. It worked! Out came a single flower.
It used to be my mom’s favorite flower, so I did not want to give up so quickly. But the pep talk surely helped.

Mid-April 2018

By mid-May, I had the nicest lily-of-the-valley on my balcony. One of my friends wondered why I did not cut them, and put them in a vase. I have no need for cut flowers! Potted plants are much better anyway – perennials are good for the cycle of life, and bees and other insects appreciate them too.
Cut flowers are for consumerism.
And yes, I get a whiff of them on the balcony with every breeze.

Early to mid-May

By early June, I noticed the first seed pods.

Early June 2018

This is what they look like in August. A bunch of orange berries decorate the balcony. It will be time to harvest them when they are shriveled and dark.

Mid-August 2018

Today, on 31 August 2018, the first seed pods have entered the shriveling stage, and it’s getting closer to harvesting time.

End of August 2018

Read more at Gardening Know How: Lily Of The Valley Seed Pod – Tips On Planting Lily Of The Valley Berries https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/lily-of-the-valley/lily-of-the-valley-seed-pods.htm

 

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