Happy Second Christmas (known as Boxing Day in England). I have no idea about the meaning or origin of this holiday, either in Germany or England. Regardless, all workers are happy to have another day off.
For some reason, Christmas is known in Germany as Weihnacten. As already mentioned, there are two. This is useful for married couples, because the have a Christmas day for each set of parents. Rotation is necessary to prevent jealousy, because the first Christmas seems to rank ahead of the second in terms of parental status. Most important for family gathering is Christmas Eve, but most parents will settle sharing a festive meal on Christmas Day.
If you look up weih in a dictionary, you get votive (“an object offered in fulfillment of a vow”). I am sure that there is some esoteric meaning to relate this to December 25th and 26th, but no one seems to know or care. It’s a time of celebration: religious for religious folks, pagan for infidels, and commercial for all others.
For most, today is Christmas, so Merry Christmas. For Germans, this is the first Christmas, even though last night was the time of gift-giving. Tomorrow is the second Christmas, which no one understands. For Orthodox Christians, Christmas is not until January 6. It’s all very confusing.
As a treat, I want to give you an impression of my Christmas, past and present. This is a study in contrasts. 2013 vs, 1973. See if you can spot the difference and guess which is which...
In case you’re stumped, I had to provide my own Christmas decorations with a grease pencil and the windshield of a UH-1 helicopter. The hills in the distance lie to west of Qui Nhon, Vietnam. I was playing at real war...not a fake one, like Fox News and rightwing idiots imagine, resurrect, and promote each year. (Because not enough people are jumping on their bandwagon, race has been added to the tree decoration.**) Although not religious, Christmas was and always will be Christmas.
Gifts in Germany are brought by das Cristkind, (German Word of the Day Christmas Editon: the christ child) not Santa Claus. Niklaus (St. Nicolas) drops by on December 6th to leave small gifts, fruit, and cookies. I do not know and will not bother to research the origins of a small child bringing presents to German children on or around the old pagan feast day, but there must be some connection to the birth of some fictional character, which has evolved over generations to inspire delusional and gullible fools and to be exploited by charlatans for their own benefit.
Merry Christmas. (See, Sarah, I wrote that word again! Are you happy? No, probably not, because this brings you no financial benefit.)
Some things cannot be explained.
For instance, why do Germans consider December 24 to be Christmas, while American insist the it falls on the 25th. And, why do some countries have “2nd” Christmas on the 26th? Even Germans call the 26th the Second Christmas, when, by their reasoning, it should be the 3rd. Go figure.
I like the German tradition of opening presents on the evening of the 24th. This is particularly advantageous for parents, who are not dragged out of bed early in the morning of the 25th...as my parents were. And, I’m sure that children are happy not to be forced to wait another 12 hours to tear the wrappings off the packages that have lain, tantalizingly, under the tree for days and even weeks.
So, one more reason to live in Germany...
Merry Christmas...to anyone that cannot wait until tomorrow!
Tis the season to be sociable...
I usually send a mix of email and old-fashioned Christmas cards. (Sarah Palin and Fox New blowhards should take note of the use of this special word...and I don’t care how many nativity scenes are erected or displayed). This year I will mail one card and one lengthy email greeting. I needed less than an hour send out over fifty greetings.
Each was short and to the point. I considered my Christmas greetings to be like fishing: anyone taking the bait and writing back will receive a longer message. Anyone not replying can be happy I took the time to write them. This was the result of sloth, other things to do, and a feeling that few are interested in me. There is a saying about not being concerned about what people think of you, because they never do. Regardless, Christmas is a time to let people know that you still exist and still think of them. Some people write regularly and some people follow my worthless blog. I provide enough information to keep people informed. The rest have other things on his or her mind.
I do enjoy parts of the Christmas "experience" and am not bothered by the religious overtones, mostly ignored in Germany. That said, there are bits I dislike and must endure or attempt to avoid each year.
The below photo is cute, but it reminds me of one of my most-hated Christmas songs. This is repeatledy played and difficult, without blocking ones ears, to avoid. I equally dislike, to the point of loathing, 12 Days of Christmas in all its variations.
I finished Christmas shopping today. I am pleased with the results. I like to find presents that surprise, not necessarily ones that fulfill stated wishes. The best tend to be ones that I produce.
As in each year, I was faced with two problems. First, buying presents for people that already have too much is difficult.
Second, we live in a world with too much variety and too much choice. Even if I decide upon an item, there can be countless models and price points. The items often vary slightly, which adds to the confusion.
I often wonder if life in the former Soviet bloc, with mass deprivation and zero choice, might have been easier. That said, I prefer the life I have led. Too much is better than too little...or nothing.
Nothing's as mean as giving a little child something useful for Christmas.
NB. I can recall very few Christmas presents. Perhaps, because I was disappointed, I remember receiving underwear as a present one year, when I was a young child. I'm sure my parents meant well...
Anyone owning Apple stock should be pleased. I have boosted their annual turnover by a significant margin. I bought five (5) photo books, with several additional pages. That adds up.
The thing is, I have so many photos, and they seem to disappear into the hard drive. Best of all, these books make excellent Christmas presents. I will be a hero, because I produced something surprising and useful. They are far better and more long-lasting than some branded product, which will go out of fashion or break. Books are enduring, whereas computer hard drives have been known to fail.
Years from now, someone might look at the book and think of me. I created not only a fine Christmas present but also a monument...
(I wonder if people suffer from having a name with funny spelling.
This might explain some behavior...)
Now that Niklaus is out of the way, the holiday season started officially today. We like to start early on Christmas (I use the word to please Sarah Pallin, whose happiness is very important to me), because the preceding days are more appealing than the days following, with leftovers, nothing under the trees, full waste bins, and nothing to look forward to (except in our case, because we usually fly to someplace warm...which is another reason to enjoy the pre-Christmas period).
We bought (my wife decided) a tree; and I fought with the strings of lights and boxes of decorations. As I sit here and write worthless words, I gaze at my work of festive art. I must admit that my wife chose a good tree: evenly grown, chunky in shape, and straight-backed. I did a good job with the decoration, but I do most years. Now, we can start piling the presents underneath as they are bought and wrapped. As always, there will be too many, which is only fitting to our food fortune in life’s lottery.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.