I’m putting it out there. I love Christmas. I am happily preparing for Christmas from about July onwards, albeit in my head. I will also admit to owning two MASSIVE trees, and then insisting that we buy a real tree. I mean you have to have the smells of Christmas, right?
In a distant memory, before our lives were bogged down by play dates, activity drop offs, and volunteering at school, we lived in another land. Not just any old other land, but what I like to refer to as chocolate box, picture perfect, Christmas land! My husband was fortunate to have a job in Munich, Germany, commonly referred to by expats as Toytown. And Toytown it really was.
We lived in a cuckoo clock house, with rooms lined with those to-die-for traditional wooden panels and a some large contraption in the lounge room, known as the “Kachelofen,” which loosely translated means tile stove. This great big, and dare I say beautiful, thing occupied a great deal of the room, with its hand painted tiles and wooden bench seats. Its purpose…to warm us all up on snowy days, after a day of sledging, or scraping the pavements clean of snow. A requirement in Munich!
Christmas really was a journey of the senses in Munich. Starting with Advent. Having been raised Roman Catholic, I was more than well aware of what Advent was, but not until we lived in Germany did I ever celebrate Advent, or mark it any way. In Munich we did! With great care, each year I would prepare my wreath, buy new candles, and choose the Christmas color scheme to be delicately tied into my Advent wreath. Each one of those 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas saw the ritualistic lighting of the candles as we chomped on the gorgeous baked delicacies of the season.
Speaking of delicacies of the baked kind, my kitchen became an adult adventure playground. On a daily basis, I would churn out new German cookie recipes that had to be had around Christmas, much to the delight of my husband and his work colleagues, as well as my young children. I perfected the Gingerbread house and gingerbread people. Our home smelt of cinnamon and vanilla. Our home smelt of Christmas.
Of course, the Christmas markets were another highlight of Christmas. You would easily forget just how cold and icy it was, when well gloved hands wrapped themselves around a glass of gluwein, or 2. There is nothing more beautiful than standing under a Christmas tree in the village Christmas market with the gentle flutter of snowflakes landing on your nose and eyelashes. And if there could be a highlight, within this highlight, it was choosing the “perfect” real tree and arguing with the husband about why we had to have the 8 foot one and that it would be easy to drag home. It was not, of course, but that was never admitted!
If you think the baking was a mammoth effort, it was nothing compared to the preparation of decorating the home. I am no perfectly proud homemaker, in fact, quite the opposite. Until it is Christmas time. The house at this time required top to toe cleaning. Every surface wiped, every floor scrubbed, every nook and cranny cleaned. Once done, the decoration debacle could begin. The Christmas tree standing stoically in the stand and the millions of little white lights perfectly placed. The candles (yes, real candles) put in their clips and lovingly clipped to the most perfect spot. Then the parade of beautiful decorations. Each one lovingly chosen, each one hand made, and each one so very beautiful.
Of course, Christmas decorations were not complete without a nativity. Ours was a beautiful hand carved set that I just “had to have” when we visited Seiffen, a beautiful town in the Erzgebirgskreis region where most wooden German Christmas decorations were originally made. Lovingly we would choose a spot and lay out each cast member of the nativity in just the perfect spot. And finally the army of angels and smoking men. Again, each one containing memories and reminders of special things. And to accompany this visual feast came the smells: the candles, the smoking men, the Christmas cookies, all creating a symphony for the senses. Those 2 fake trees of mine (bought from the PX at the American Army bases dotted around Germany) were well and truly left in the Kellar (cellar) during our time in Germany.
Sadly, those beautiful Christmas years are memories that my family looks back on nostalgically. Each year now we drag out one of the fake trees and dress it with our lights, candles, and decorations. If I remember, I get the florist to make a wreath and use candles from yesteryear, as Advent candles are not too easy to come by here in Australia. The smoking men, angels, and nativity all make their obligatory appearance too. But it is just not the same. Christmas Day with temperatures soaring past 100° F/38° C just do not go well with real candles, smoking men, and a plethora of cinnamon and vanilla infused cookies. Gluwein needs ice too, not heat!
And you know what dear friends? As each Christmas comes, and I pull out the decorations, I am grateful for the memories of those beautiful years we had. We now make our new memories around the beach, the sunshine, and of course, what would an Aussie Christmas be without the the flies?
Christmas dinner is no longer a hot meal to be slaved over for hours. It is a shared meal, after a trip to the beach, of the finest ingredients Western Australia has to offer. And it is good, really good.
Yes, I still love Christmas. I have come to accept that Christmas may look different, feel different, and certainly smell different, but the most important part of Christmas is just the same. I get to spend it with the people who I love and cherish the most. You will be pleased to know however, that even though my Christmas stuff looks and smells really odd in the middle of an Australian summer, I still go all out. However now, I am mindful to be grateful for the family and friends who have shared the journey of the year with us this year, and look forward to the blessings the new year will bring for us too.
With warmest best wishes from Australia, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.