MEMORIES

Santa's Reindeer
by Karin A. Magdal

     Two of my children are only a couple of years apart, so there was a period when they both seriously believed in Santa Claus.

     I grew up in Germany. I absolutely loved Christmas in Germany.

     The first sign was the Christmas Market. Booths and stalls were set up outside in the middle of the market place. We could buy everything we needed for Christmas. Many artists showed their hand-made creations, vendors sold hot waffles, glühwein (hot spicy red wine), and glazed nuts, and children enjoyed the many rides.

     On December 4th we celebrated Barbaratag, named after St. Barbara. This is only done in the Catholic regions of Germany. 
My mother always cut off a small cherry branch (Kirschzweig) and then placed it in water which was kept in a warm room. The belief is that if it blooms precisely on December 25th, then this is a good sign for the future. Just watching  the cherry branch and waiting for it to blossom was an adventure and when it did precisely on Christmas day, it was a miracle! Imagine, a cherry branch blooming in the middle of cold winter!

     On December 6th, all obedient children got presents, mostly sweets, from St. Nikolaus whose custom is to put them into the shoes set outside the childrens' bedroom door. If you haven't been good, then Knecht Ruprecht comes along with a sack of coals and a broomstick for a whipping. Well, there was one year when I did not get any sweets and Knecht Ruprecht came to scold me. I was very frightened! So much that the memory has never left me. I don't remember what I was punished for but I was on my best behavior after that.

     I remember that the Christmas tree had a mysterious magic for us because my brother, sister, and I were not allowed to see it until Christmas Eve. We had to "hide" in another room and my father would ring a bell to let us know that the tree was ready. We would then come in and sing Christmas carols.  Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht and Oh Tannenbaum. After that we would open our presents and eat dinner.  Plump roast goose, Christstollen, Lebkuchen and Marzipan! We always concluded the evening by going to midnight Christmas Mass.

     I wanted my children to have such memories of Christmas.

     Every Christmas Eve we would gather around the crackling fire in the fireplace and I would read to them "T'was the Night before Christmas". Then we would prepare a plate of cookies, milk, and of course oats for the reindeer before putting the kids to bed for the night.

     One Christmas Eve we were fortunate enough to have a light snowfall with a full moon.  After the kids had been asleep for a while, I went outside and with a broom handle drew sleigh tracks in the snow and scattered oats around as if the reindeer had been sloppy while Santa was feeding them. Then I shook the sleigh bells that usually hung by the door until I saw a light come on upstairs.

     I bounded up the stairs acting very excited and asking the kids if they had heard what I had heard.  When they said they had,  I asked them if we should look out the window to see if we could see anything.  They quickly headed for the window and began shouting as they saw Santa's sleigh's tracks in the snow.  Needless to say it took a while to get them settled down again, but the look on their faces and  the excitement this little bit of deception brought them  made it all worth it.

    To this day, the Christmas memory I made for my children is one of my own fondest Christmas memories!

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