As I cross more traditional German events off my list, I feel day by day as if I am becoming a real German. Last week I had the amazing experience of going to several different Christmas Markets, the photos being from the huge one in Heidelberg, and then this weekend I was able to attend my first Bundesland soccer game, go Hoffenheim! It was so fun and really a traditional German experience.
Last night I was talking with Opa`s doctor and he told me the weirdest thing he experienced when he did is tour across America was the lack of tradition. He said he expected much more and was pretty disappointed to learn that there simply isn`t many more still around. I told him I agreed and that really the only traditions I know are those that belong to individual families, not to towns, cities, etc. Especially when considering Christmas time. Other than being forced to go to church for the Christmas Eve service, most families don`t do much expect follow the cliche habits of society in lighting up the house and buying and wrapping thousands of presents for under the tree. Here in Germany faith is obviously similarly dwindling...so it seems. But it is a true blessing to see even non-believing families give credit to their forefathers and enjoy the true meaning behind Christmas over Gluhwein and Flammkuchen. They too get lost in the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating but I believe their personally insignificant Christmas songs and tradition of a family Advent bring them back to the real thoughts and meaning behind this huge holiday.
I told the family last night about my family traditions and realized how thankful I was for them. More than I maybe had ever considered before. Every Christmas the most important things to my mom are when we all decorate the tree together, not with cliche ornaments but with hand made ones we have all joined together in making and buying. The most important thing she does is prepare the manger for baby Jesus who will come on Christmas day, the highlight of my Christmas as a kid. And yes she still does the cooking, the baking, the wrapping, the stocking stuffing... but those things never seem as important to her. She cooks around the Christmas Eve service so we can all attend and she makes sure the other things are done so that she is free to just enjoy the time with her children and grandchildren. For my dad the most important seems to be building a fire, keeping his family warm and providing an environment where we can all be together and enjoy just being together. And the most important to him is sharing the traditional Christmas story from his own bible each Christmas day. Then we pray together and later usually are gifted with a new devotional for the new year from mom and dad, this is a blessing to me every year time and time again!
So my family traditions may seem minuscule and lacking in grave importance, but for me, they are what makes Christmas, Christmas. They are what point me year after year to the true importance and meaning of this season. I am thankful this year that being away from family has given me the opportunity to reflect much more on what that actually means, when we are together.