Monday, December 24, 2012

The Silence of Christmas Eve


In Germany, our “big day” is not Christmas Day (and we even have two of them!) but Christmas Eve – Heilig Abend (Holy Eve) as it is called. It usually starts out hectic, often with the last big shopping because all of the stores and supermarkets will be closed for the following two days. But around 2:00 pm the shops (including the grocery stores) close and by 3:00 pm at the latest a magical silence covers the entire country like a beautiful veil. The ideal December 24th brings snow in the afternoon and turns the world into a winter wonderland by the time the first church bells start to ring.

Oh, the sound of church bells – how much do I miss this! They ring every day (at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, at noon and again at 6:00 pm), but on Christmas Eve all the bells are ringing, from the smallest, highest pitch to the biggest one with the deepest, loudest sound. It’s a concert of bells that resounds through the silence, calling for mass. Christmas services start in the later afternoon, the first ones mainly for smaller children, showing nativity plays and involving the kids. Later in the evening follow the more “grown-up” services with meaningful sermons and the old German Christmas carols sung by the congregation. Everybody knows these songs and since the churches are always packed on Christmas Eve it is a strong and joyful singing.

After church it’s back home – and waiting for Christkind (Christ Child). Yes – it often is not Santa coming through the chimney (there are not that many houses with a fireplace anyway) but Christkind. When I was a child I always envisioned Christkind with golden curly hair and a flowing white dress, an angelic smile on its face. It would place the presents in “die gute Stube” (“the good room” = living room) and magically disappear, unseen by anyone. The children are called in and they stand in awe looking at the Christmas tree – that was brought in and decorated only the day before (or even in the morning) and very often carries real candles on its branches. I have always loved the real candles, it smells differently and the whole atmosphere is – yes, magical. After singing a few Christmas carols everybody opens their presents accompanied by Christmas music on the radio.

And if you’re still awake or missed the afternoon/evening service you can go to midnight mass – always my favorite Christmas service. A huge tree is lit (some with real candles – we live dangerously in Germany!), the atmosphere is festive and peaceful – it is our “Silent Night, Holy Night”.


I wish all of you the silence of Christmas Eve 
and a wonderful Christmas, filled with laughter and joy.

16 comments:

Lynn Cohen said...

It sounds absolutely lovely start to finish. I hope you can replicate something of this homeland feel for yourself there in SR. Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year!

Sally H said...

How beautiful. Hope your Christmas is filled with joy and laughter. Happy Christmas my friend x

La Vie Quotidienne said...

If I am not mistaken, I think that this is your first Christmas in your new home. I hope it is a wonderful one! Merry Christmas.

Silvia(Barnie) said...

Ich wünsche dir und deinen Lieben ein besinnliches Weihnachtsfest :)

Kay L. Davies said...

We saw some lovely sights and heard some of those beautiful bells when we were in Germany last month.
Wishing you and yours happiness in the holiday season and in the coming year.
K

The Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for yet another beautiful and evocative post.
I hope your Christmas is filled with the magic of love.

JoZart said...

Frohe Weinachten Carola. I love reading of different traditions and, as you know, I have experienced some of your's whilst visiting Germany. My DD enjoys both English and German traditions...best of both! Her MIL still light real candles on her real Christmas tree each year and yes! it IS SUCH A RISK! but so beautiful.
Do you watch "Dinner for One" with Freddy Frinton. I think it is usually watched in Germany at New Year and it is so funny. Amazingly it is a very old ENGLISH film! I have a copy which my SIL sent to me and love it.
lots of love from Jo x

seabluelee said...

What a lovely narrative of your beautiful German Christmas traditions. I've twice seen a big Christmas tree lit with real candles. I was terrified the entire time, but it really was beautiful.

Kelly said...

Wow, that sounds so beautiful. Thank you for sharing! I love seeing Germany through your eyes~
Merry Christmas, Carola,
Kelly

windrock studio said...

Beautiful words ... magical silence like a veil. Hope your Christmas was the same, beautiful & magical.

Maria Ontiveros said...

How lovely to read of your traditions. Our Christmas was a bit untraditional this year, but we enjoyed ourselves none th less.
Rinda

patty said...

Carola, this is so lovely. I love hearing about your beautiful traditions. I'm sure you must miss all of that immensely, but you do always carry it inside. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday. We are off to Tucson in the morning.

Marcie said...

I just love hearing about your Christmas traditions!! Wishing you and yours all the best in the up and coming new year!

Jennifer Richardson said...

just imagining all those bells
ringing at once
makes my heart grin wide
and long:)
thanks for sharing your kind
words on my post over at vision and verb....such a shiny light
you are:)
much, much joy to dear you,
Jennifer

RosC said...

Hi Carola,
Just a quick note to say Best Wishes for the New Year. I've been reading your posts about Christmas and it's meanings and memories for you. I can imagine how this might be for you. I know I would be quite dislocated having Christmas in a cold climate, with different traditions around me that are interesting but lack some of the meaning of the original. Thank you sharing your feelings.

I hope 2013 is a great year for you and your people.

A year of smiles,
Ros.

Ginnie said...

I so know why you miss this, Carola! Only once in my life, years ago, did I attend a midnight service on Christmas Eve...and loved singing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus.

Now that it is New Year's Eve, I wish you and yours a Happy New Year!