Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Silence of Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and today I want to share a blogpost again that I wrote four or five years ago when I was still writing for Vision and Verb. Recently my thoughts went to the time of Advent and Christmas back home - I felt so totally and completely "un-Christmassy" this year that somehow these thoughts silently crept into my mind. Kaefer and I were listening to some German Christmas carols while baking cookies and that's when my thoughts started to travel home.



In Germany, the “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 2:00pm the shops (including the grocery stores) close and by 3:00pm 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 6:00pm), 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’m a little bit afraid that those of you who have read about how we set the advent wreath on fire now might think of us as pyromaniacs). 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”.


May the magic of Christmas touch your heart, wherever you are.

If you're celebrating Hanukkah, I wish you joy and happiness. May you have a peaceful Holiday of Lights.


7 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Christmas and hanukkah have arrived here. I am wishing you, and your family all the best for the season, and all the seasons to come.
Love and laughter to you.

Magic Love Crow said...

We are having a very quiet Christmas this year. Many people I know said, they felt the same as you! Thank you for sharing this beautiful blog post!! I love the image too!! Wishing you and your family many blessings! Merry Christmas!! Big Hugs!

krishna said...

Very nice writing...

Merry Christmas...

Felicia said...

Christmas is such a magical time. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

seabluelens said...

What beautiful memories, Carola. I can only imagine the beauty and excitement of all those bells, and how much you must miss them. A few years ago, I lived in a historic neighborhood that held annual Christmas activities. The climax was when we gathered in a beautiful old home with a huge Christmas tree in the foyer, beautifully decorated with ornaments and real candles. The candles were lighted as we all sang carols, ending with "Silent Night." I was always anxious until the last candle was extinguished, but it was a beautiful ritual and one I'm glad I got to experience. I hope this Christmas was a wonderful one for you and your family, filled with peace and joy.

Jeanie said...

Oh Carola, this is absolutely beautiful -- and I learned something too. Your photos, as well, are so pretty and so beautiful, especially the creche.

We had a fairly quiet but lovely Christmas this year with time to think about the meaning of the holiday as well as time for joy. You speak of Silent Night -- on my blog I posted Rick and his friends' rendition of this beautiful carol Not bad for amateurs but the real gift was the meaning and love behind these beautiful words.

Onward to 2017 -- may your new year be happy.

Darla said...

I hope your Christmas was lovely this year. I really enjoyed reading about Christmas in Germany. My family has always opened presents on Christmas Eve just as you describe. I think that is a bit unusual here in the U.S. these days but it is our tradition and we stick to it.

Have a wonderful New Year!