My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Saturday, December 31, 2005

An adorable little girl...

Let me introduce you: this is my little goddaughter Paula. She turns two in January. Here she is sitting in her grandparents' living room, playing with the new toy I gave her for Christmas. Isn't she just adorable? She is very curious, very lively, loves to play and to cuddle. And she doesn't smile - she grins!
She reminds me of myself when I was little. Maybe because we are both blond and have a space between our front teeth? I always joke that she comes after me ;).

Some more Christmas memories

I really enjoyed this year’s Christmas. It actually started on the 22nd this time. My beloved and I both celebrate Christmas Eve and Day at home with our parents, so we don’t see each other as they live about to hours apart. Therefore we had our own little Christmas evening at my place. We cooked some good food (we both love cooking) – duck in a sauce of oranges – watched a movie, exchanged Christmas presents and just enjoyed each other’s company. He left early on Friday and I had some friends from church over for soup and breadpudding, fellowship and worship. Then I left for my parents’ place to put up the tree. Do you like it? The picture is a bit blurry, but I hope you get an idea. Christmas Eve we went to church in the village where my parents live. This is where I got confirmed and on one of their camps I took the decision for Christ. There is always a Christmas play done by the youth. You have to be really early cause the church is packed, people are standing in the back. Most of them never enter church on any other day of the year... Afterwards we had gifts and food and just talked. Christmas day as quite relaxed. I took my mom to the service in my church in Bonn. It was wonderful seeing everybody and celebrating the coming of Christ to us. On the second Christmas day my beloved came for dinner. And we had snow! So it took him twice the time it normally takes to drive from Paderborn to my parents... Dinner was fun. My sister’s boyfriend was also over. We stayed for a little while after Christmas. On Tuesday we visited my best friends who are also the parents of my little goddaughter. She turns two in January. And of course she knew right away that that bag I had must hold a present for her J. And of course it did. We had so much fun together. She is just too cute and funny. She especially loved my hat. In the afternoon we met again for some tobboganing. That was fun!
And on Thursday we met with some friends back in Bonn for tapas and “Feuerzangenbowle”. That is a German winter tradition: you warm redwine and orange juice with some spices (cloves, cinnemon, etc.) and put orange pieces into it. Then you place a certain metal fork/bar over it, put a sugar cone on the fork, drench it in rum (54 %) and then light it. The rum starts burning, so the cone melts and drops into the warm wine. Well made, it tastes quite good. Otherwise, believe me, it doesn’t. This one was good though. Hope you enjoyed some more pictures of a German Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

My favorite German Christmas poem

A little gift for all of you. This is my favorite German Christmas poem by Joseph von Eichendorff:
Markt und Straßen stehn verlassen,
Still erleuchtet jedes Haus,
Sinnend geh ich durch die Gassen,
alles sieht so festlich aus.
In den Fenstern haben Frauen
Buntes Spielzeug fromm geschmückt,
Tausend Kindlein stehn und schauen,
Sind so wundervoll beglückt.
Und ich wandre durch die Gassen
Bis hinaus ins freie Feld,
Hehres Glänzen, heilges Schauern!
Wie so weit und still die Welt!
Sterne hoch die Kreise schlingen,
Aus des Schnees Einsamkeit
Steigts wie wunderbares Singen -
O du gnadenreiche Zeit!

A glimpse of German Christmas

I know I have not written for a really long time. I was really busy and just got internet connection at home the beginning of December. But also, I just wanted to take time during Advent to prepare for Christmas. I just thought I'll share some thoughts and some small impressions of German Christmas.

Here in Germany, Advent still plays an important role - even though its role has probably changed. Advent is meant to be a time to prepare for the coming of Christ. A transition from darkness to light. This is why Advent starts with just one lit candle and then progresses towards for lit candles and the whole Christmas tree on Christmas. Many people just see Advent as a fun time to enjoy cookies, Glühwein (warm spiced wine), Christmas markets, ice skating, ... Or as a most stressful time - buying presents, planning meals, crowded cities, ... Advent suely can be a wonderful time (enjoying all the things mentioned above), but it is also a time for awaiting and preparing ourselves for Christ. This is not always easy in between all the commotion around us! But this year, fortunately, I had at least some time to sit quietly, with lit candles and some hot tea and to read God's word.
Germans do not put up their Christmas trees the beginning of Advent, but either on the 23rd of December or the morning of Christmas Eve. We always put ours up the late afternoon of the 23rd. I have not missed this tradition once :). Of course everything moves in a set pattern: Mom decides on the position of the lights, Dad puts the ornaments into the highest part of the tree and my mom and I take care of the other ornaments. And then we add the "Lametta" (long silvery stuff hanging from the branches). I try to always avoid that part ;). Maybe I'll post a picture of our tree in a few days. We keep the tree until Epiphany. Of course, as the "children" my sister (25y) and I (29y) are not allowed to see the Christmas tree with its lights burning until Christmas Eve.
The main part of Christmas for Germans is Christmas Eve. People attend church in the late afternoon (even most who never enter a church any other day of the year) and then have either dinner first or the exchange of the gifts. We have gifts first and then a long nice family dinner. On Christmas day, there are again services at church - no matter what day of the week it is (same on the second Christmas day, 26th).

I really love Christmas. It is a wonderful time to be with family and friends. But most important to me is what happend that first Christmas in Bethlehem. God sending His son into the world, a poor little baby. A poor little baby in a manger - the hope and salvation for us!
Christmas is about the heart. It is a time to think about our hearts - how is the condition of our heart. Does our saviour have a place in our heart - THE place in our heart? Has our heart turned hard and stony? Or is soft and loving? It is a time to receive God's wonderful inexpressable gift for us: Jesus Christ. And it is a time to give gifts back to God, gifts to the little baby in the manger. What is the gift? My all. My favorite German Christmas carol sings about us standing in front of the manger, giving ourselves, giving what He has given us first to Jesus, who is our life.
So I'll close with the first verse of this song (in German). Merry Christmas to all of you!

Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier,
oh Jesu, Du mein Leben.
Ich komme, bring und schenke Dir,
was Du mir hast gegeben.
Nimm hin, es ist mein Leib und Sinn,
Herz, Seel und Mut, nimm alles hin
und lass Dir's wohl gefallen.