A Bavarian Christmas

       During those early childhood years Christmas festivities were made memorable by my grandmother's careful planning. It was an unforgettable time for the growing family. Peeking through the keyhole My father recalled that "Silent Night, Holy Night" was the first song he and his brothers and sisters learned to sing; with "O Tannenbaum" memorized soon afterwards. My father loved the Christmas holidays all his life and celebrated them by building a traditional Bavarian Krippe and decorating an old-fashioned Christmas Tree every year during my childhood. He continued the tradition with his grandchildren as well, long after my brother and I had left home and married. Even today though almost 30 years have passed since my father's death, a German Krippe continues to be assembled every Christmas in the Allen Household so that even his great-grandchildren have now had an opportunity to enjoy the magic of a Bavarian Christmas.

       For German families in the early years of this century, the Christmas season began on December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas...

       "On the afternoon of that day, we already were afraid because none of us had a clear conscience as far as that visitor was concerned. The good would be rewarded and the bad would be punished.

       Darkness came and no children could be found on the streets. They were all crouched at home waiting for those things that were coming. All of a sudden someone shouted: 'Here he comes!' and right afterwards an iron chain rattled at the door. The smallest of the children began to scream. Even the older ones trembled. The door opened and there was Nicholas with white beard and flaxen hair that veiled most of his face. In one hand he carried the chain and a bundle of switches; in the other, a sack filled with apples, nuts and so on. He asked parents which children had been good or bad. They were then given either something from the sack or a few swats with the switches where it did the most good. Before he left, he put each of us on his lap and made us promise to obey Mama and Papa in the future. This was our fore-taste and preview of Christmas. " *

       My grandmother spent many busy weeks before Christmas baking cookies and stollen and preparing the gifts and decorations . This was all in addition to her ordinary daily labors in the Gasthof kitchen and inn. My father continues:

       " The room where we would receive our gifts was locked. Even the keyhole was pasted up. Curiosity overcame us. We behaved like the purest little saints. It was almost unbearable not knowing what secret activities Mother and the Christkindl were about in that room. We were encouraged to write a letter to the Christkindl and lay it outside on the windowsill so that the Christkindl could pick it up during the night. And really, the next morning it had vanished! Mother always made sure that we wished for the things she wanted us to wish for.

       Finally the big day came. In the afternoon we were sent to our Grandmother's house along with the three children of our Mother's sister. Upstairs on the third floor was a wide old-fashioned double bed with a thick straw mattress. We had to take our shoes off and without a jacket, climb into the bed and behave 'or else you'll get it!' Those three or four hours were an eternity and seemed never to end. It got dark and all of us fell asleep from the anticipation.

       At last Grandmother woke us up. Feverishly, we pulled on our shoes, quickly ate a supper of thick soup and a cup of malt coffee with Hutzelbrot. Then we went across the Bahnhof Strasse and down the Markt. Many windows in the houses were brightly lit. We heard children singing; trumpets were blaring. One could see parts of Christmas trees lit with wax candles of every color. Finally we arrived at our house. Father and Mother stood in the doorway and shouted to us that the Christkindl had come. The doors of the Christmas room stood open. In one corner a giant tree glittered with decorations and naturally with many burning candles. On one side along the whole length of wall, Christmas gifts were laid out on pushed together tables. Each had his own space, according to age. There were stores and shops, castles with knights and cannons, puppet theaters, games, bowls of fruits, nuts, candies and so on. There was enough for everyone and momentarily all hearts were peacefully at rest." *

Illustrations by Fritz Simon Lindner (1899-1969)
* MEMORIES OF MY LIFE by Fritz Simon Lindner (1899-1969).
Translation by Mary Ann Lindner Allen.

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