Family Traditions

Advent Wreath
December 6 is St. Nikolaus Day in Germany. Last night children put the biggest boot they could find outside their door. If they had been good during the year, Nikolaus brought them chocolate, fruit and small gifts. Those who had misbehaved, received coal and switches made from slender, flexible tree shoots. Once learned and experienced, our two children kept this tradition until they were much older. Their American friends wondered why St. Nikolaus didn’t visit them during the night of December 5-6.

We learned and kept many traditions from our two years in Germany when I had been a Fulbright teacher. Our Christmas lights at home in Upstate New York went up with the help of our son visiting from Florida when the weather was warm enough at Thanksgiving. We finally turned them on last week to celebrate the first week of Advent. We noticed more white lights and straw ornaments on Christmas trees in Germany. We also learned that stores closed early and remained closed for almost three days at Christmas. Presents were opened in the evening of December 24. It was also the first time that the tree was seen. Most families leave the tree up for the twelve days of Christmas. Some still use real candles on the tree. I brought a smoke detector with us to Germany and when I lit the real candles on the tree and watched for about ten minutes, the detector sounded.

As a surprise to me in Neresheim, Germany, my students put a wreath of fresh boughs in the middle of my desk at school and lit one candle in the middle. It was beautiful and quite unexpected, but I have to admit that my first thoughts were about fire safety. However, I thanked my students for this lovely tradition they were sharing with me. I noted it was so nice to have this reminder of Christmas in my classroom. After I had thanked the class, I told them that I couldn’t have this display in an American school because of fire hazards. That led to a further discussion of how many practice fire drills we have annually in US schools.

The teachers’ room had an Advent calendar with 25 wrapped candy bars hanging from various lengths of ribbon attached to a pole and suspended from the ceiling. On each candy bar was the name of a teacher who got to snip the candy off the pole. At home in the US again, we continued to use an Advent calendar. My children have always enjoyed the extra traditions we brought home with us and still celebrate and discuss today.

The food traditions remain with us as well. We eagerly look for the first Pfeffernuesse to appear at our supermarket and enjoy the tasty spiced gingerbread morsels. There is great comfort in traditions and rituals. Which ones do you have in your own family?

This entry was posted in Advent Wreath, Christmas Traditions, education, family, Fulbright Teacher Exchange, Teaching in Germany and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Family Traditions

  1. Tom says:

    Pfeffernuesse and Advent calendars are nice little treats around Christmas time!


  2. I once thought that hanging and hiding a glass pickle ornament was a German tradition so once I had grandchildren I began that tradition in my own home. I then asked my German friends (grandchildren’s friends’ German parents!) if they knew of this tradition. Nope! So, although we continue to hide the pickle each year I’m guessing it’s not really a German tradition at all! The Advent calendar (many, many versions!) is another tradition followed each year in my home. And when December 6th falls on a school day (my grands board their bus from my house) Sankt Nikolaus had visited. While teaching 7th grade German, we often played the game “Eine Tafel Schokolade.” Of course, students learned many German Christmas carols. For many years we traveled to local shopping areas and sang carols for shoppers. Of course, my students also traveled from classroom to classroom at Christmas time, singing German songs to the younger classes and hopefully, giving them reason to choose German as their language the following year. Ah memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is such a thoughtful comment and much appreciated. Traditions make wonderful memories. I love all the ones you shared and except for the pickle on a tree, we did many of those in our family too. Once a teacher, always a teacher! You had many successful years of teaching and for that, I am grateful. My next upcoming German teacher will be ready in three years. Thank you for your comment, Sue. ^__^


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