Christmas from Germany to Arizona

Dec 18 2017, 5:10 pm in , , , ,

Happy Holidays!

     The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a tide of memories and traditions. I spent many of my early childhood years on an Air Force base in Stuttgart, Germany, and my parents adopted some of the customs of the region. We’d put our shoes outside the door on December 5th for St. Nicholas (his feast day is Dec. 6th) and if we were good, they were filled with goodies the next morning.

                                                                                                                                                                        We also had an Advent Calendar filled with chocolate, and nutcracker soldiers on our mantel. And something I didn’t recall until I was shopping at Cost Plus years ago…soft gingerbread cookies, frosted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     When the military moved us to Texas (this time living off-base), we were introduced to new cultural traditions. Lining the sidewalks with luminarias, visiting the River Walk for beautiful lights and mariachi music, and eating tamales on Christmas day are all part of the local traditions in San Antonio. And, Las Posadas was a recreation of the Mary and Joseph’s journey from door to door, seeking refuge. The church would often recreate this in a nearby neighborhood.

 

     For the past several years, we’ve celebrated Christmas in northern Arizona, where snow is not unheard of. With three kids, I’ve maintained the tradition of the tree, stockings, and advent calendars. We deck the house out with lights. When my daughter was in ballet, part of our annual celebration was watching her dance in The Nutcracker while the local symphony played. 

 

     This year, we’ll have our Annual Gingerbread Houses (preassembled because, for me, nothing drives away Christmas cheer like having to assemble one of those things). We’ll bake snowball cookies because they’re my husband’s favorite, and decorate sugar cookies because my youngest loves those. And since my daughter loves the soft German-style gingerbread cookies, we’ll be making a visit to Cost Plus, too. At our house, Santa will more often find beer than milk, but no worries—he always makes it to the next house.

 

 

     A bittersweet note this year is the Polar Express. If you haven’t heard of it, it was an animated movie (starring Tom Hanks in multiple roles) based on a popular book. As we are a railroad town, a local train company (which usually travels to the Grand Canyon) puts together a Polar Express experience annually, and the movie is recreated for thousands of lucky children on an hour-long train ride in an old-fashioned train car. Santa even hands out a souvenir bell at the end, as he does in the movie. We’ve done this a couple times in the past, but this may be our last time. My youngest is still a believer, but, sadly, this will probably be the final year. He’s already questioning things, but seems eager to keep believing, so I’ve been vague in my answers unless he presses me. He hasn’t yet.

     Wherever and however you celebrate the season, Happy Holidays and good tidings to you and yours!

                         Cheers,

                                                Anne Marie

 

 

Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  

She writes to reclaim her sanity.

Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways

There Is No Place Like Home

Dec 12 2017, 11:07 pm in , ,

   I’m Rebekah Simmers and I collect angels. A very specific type. They are about three inches tall and carved by hand from natural wood. Each has a simple painted face, thin wooden wings and wear a small golden crown upon their heads. The main difference is what they hold in their non-descript hands. A harp. Bells. Cello. Drum. A heart.

One has her hands held straight over a xylephone.

 

 

 

Another’s are held together as she kneels over the baby Jesus’s cradle.

 

If you look closer, you will see more subtle differences. Some are made with darker woods. A few have a broken wing.

 

 

 

 

 

Three are adorned with blue Swavorski crystals. A few are as old as I am, most much younger. All were made in one of the mountain regions here in Germany, where they have been made for decades in the wood working traditions that originate there.

 

 

 

I was born in Germany as an Army brat, where my mother bought the first of these Angels. Every year she sat on our piano, the sheet music for “Stille Nacht” sitting in front of her on her own grand piano. She was my favorite Christmas decoration, connecting me to this far off place where I was born. I visited Germany in high school and went to a Christmas store in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I saw some sitting in a basket. My own collection was born.

Now as a military spouse, I find myself living in Germany. My typical American Christmas with a side of Germany has been transformed into it’s own full blown German experience. Like in America, where each region has it’s own slight differences, each area here has a unique flavor based on regional folklore and traditions.

I live in Stuttgart in Baden-Wurttemburg. We do not live on a military base, but rather down “on the economy” in a smaller German town that has a lovely village feel. “History! Tradition! Hofen!” I have been told by more than one person who hails from our town and it is rich in both of those. The town has a distinctive Schwabian flare to it. A slightly different accent is spoken and traditional authentic Schwabish food such as maultaschen, schupfnudeln and Spaetzle are served year round, but they are very recognizable in one of Germany’s special traditions – the Weihnachtsmarkt. Christmas markets.

The Weihnachtsmarkt happens through Germany. Markets can have a specific theme. There are Medieval, Baroque, Victorian, and Children’s markets. At each you can count on the food. Bratwursts, pommes (French fries), Brezeln (pretzels), Lebkuchen (spiced cookies)). There is also music with live bands, beautiful lights and decorations. Elaborately decorated booths selling everything from delicate glass ornaments and puppets to pots and pans. Gluehwein, a hot, spiced red or white wine, is offered in a mug uniquely decorated for that specific market – a collector’s item

In Stuttgart it lasts the entire Advent season. The Weihnachtsmarkt in our little village is for one day and is held in and around the old burg / castle ruins. 

My favorite things is being able to visit different markets stands overflowing with hand carved/painted wooden decorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is food, handmade crafts, jellies, jewelry and a wood carving stand among others.

 

There are semi-circle structures called Schwiboggen, often lit up, depicting some variation of winter theme across the bottom.

There are Nutcrackers, smokers and ornaments of all shapes, sizes and themes. And my angels. Not the intricately painted and detailed ones, but the natural wood color, short skirt angel orchestra, with the little one sat at the grand piano, that brings me full circle and makes this foreign country feel like home to me.

Rebekah Simmers is addicted to words.  She’s working to complete the first novel in a trilogy.  She’s a military spouse, mother of five and one fur baby and a dedicated volunteer. 

If you want to read her Flash Fiction story, Ring Pop, search her name in recent posts.

 

   

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