One by one, a miniature choir of chubby, wooden angels began to appear in the glass kitchen cabinet. Every day, a new one, each with a musical instrument—some playing a trumpet, or a harp, or an organ.
On the kitchen reading table now sat four deep red candles in a thick WeihnachtsKranz (Christmas wreath), to be lit one by one—one for every Sunday of the special Adventzeit.
And then there were the traditional, handgemacht (handmade) figurines of the Erzgebirge, little Raüchermanner (Smoking Men) who puff scented smoke when a Raücherkerze (incense cone) is lit inside, and wooden nutcrackers.
Now, the particular Nutcracker guy we have isn’t really a nutcracker at all, but a bushy-browed fellow on horseback, wearing brightly colored uniform! He’s always looking fierce, to represent those harsh German authorities of the Ore Mountain mines in the late 1800’s.
This region in East Germany bordering the Czech Republic, besides it’s delicious food, is also famous for its grand mountains, forests, and mining industry. It’s become my once-in-awhile-home since my son was born here in 2009.
The wooden figurines are well-known Erzgebirge handicrafts made by the local communities since hundreds of years. The ones that sit on our kitchen table now aren’t newly bought decorations; they’ve been in the family for years, sort of vintage artifacts—heirlooms—that resurface every December.
The little prune-men, with their bodies made of dried prunes, are some of my favorite. A family friend last week, added another artifact to our collection: a lucky prune chimney sweeper.
I’ll never forget the first time one I met a real chimney sweep, five years ago, in this house. My husband had told me that if the black-uniformed men ever came to your door, they were believed to bring good luck! I was pregnant at the time, and hoping for all the luck (blessings) in the world for my new baby who was on his way!
So when the doorbell rang one day, and a very tall, smiling man in a top hat and buttoned-down uniform cheerily appeared to sweep the soot off our chimney, I felt like a little child shaking hands with the Weihnachtsmann! (I only found out much later that he’d been hired, of course, to work that day.)
But innocence is bliss, and Christmas is for innocent children—and children at heart.
We’ve read together, of course, the real story; they know about the angels and the Star, and the baby Jesus—but I do think a little of that other magic is fun too, when you mix traditions with culture and throw in a little of your own twists.
Yes, we can have real evergreens and traditional Saxon figurines…but we can cut out simple paper snowflakes and string them on the windows, too. We can tell stories about surprises and magic …but we do know that love is the biggest magic of it all.
And when Saint Nick leaves two gigantic chocolate men on the doorstep to eat, and more chocolate surprises in their winter boots (as he did last December 6)…
…and when you can enjoy all these simple pleasures with the wonder of a little child, then Christmas becomes, not a stressful occasion, but a lot of FUN.
I know it won’t be long until they’ll be older, and perhaps jaded. So, while their little eyes are still wide with wonder and delight, I’ll be enjoying the season’s magic, too.
“Mom, do you know who actually gives us the uberraschungs (surprise gifts) at Christmas?”
“Um…the Weihnachtsmann?” (I’m hoping he hasn’t found the secret stash of packages hiding in our cabinet.)
“Well, someone else, too! Do you know? There’s the Weihnachtsmann, and Niklaus, and…do you know who else?”
Splashing his boots through the half frozen mud, with an intelligent look that only a nearly-five-year-old can properly pull off, he said:
“The postman, of course.”